“IPL has been the turning point of my life” — Hardik Pandya

“IPL has been the turning point of my life” — Hardik Pandya

He is being seen as the match winner with both bat and ball, somebody who has got an X factor. Vimal Kumar recently spoke to Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya on his incredible journey from being one of hundreds domestic cricketers to be part of the Indian T20 team.


What was your first reaction when you got the news of your India selection for the first time?
My ears did hear the news but eyes were refusing to believe. Of course, people were talking about my candidature before the Australia tour but when I saw my name on BCCI website along with Dhoni, Yuvraj, Kohli and Harbhajan, for a second I felt it can’t be true. Seeing my name in that list will be an unforgettable memory of my life.


So, it means that you were patting yourself on your back for a lucky break?
Not exactly. What I am trying to say is that it was an unbelievable moment for me but not unsurprising as I was indeed hopeful of an opportunity since I have been doing well in domestic cricket, especially since the IPL 2015.


So, a lot has changed dramatically in your life in just last few months?
Nobody knew about me a year back, not even a cricket reporter like you if I may add. I distinctly remember that evening in Delhi when Irfan(Pathan) bhai introduced me to you. And, now everyone wants to do a story on me.


What has been the turning point for you?
Without a shadow of doubt, it’s the IPL. IPL has been the turning point of my life actually. Thanks to this tournament and my franchise Mumbai Indians, at least people could see who I was and what I could do with a cricket bat or ball. It has been a roller-coaster ride since then and I am very happy.


You seem to be indebted to your franchise Mumbai Indians?
They have been very supportive of me throughout. I have been going to their houses for parties and pujas and all that, and it does feel unreal at times. One year back I guess even the Ambanis didn’t know who was Hardik Pandya. But after one year, they at least know me. Even when I got selected, Mukesh (Ambani) sir called me and said that he was very happy for me. Akash (Mukesh Ambani’s son) called me up and Nita Madam personally congratulated me.


Ricky Ponting’s words carries a lot of weight and it helped that he spoke profusely about you during the IPL?
You know what kind of person Ponting is. He is not somebody who would say something for the sake of it. It was a great bonding with him as a coach and the day I got selected for India, he was delighted for my break.


And from Indian players, who have helped you the most and who are your best friends?
Obviously, being my senior team-mate at Baroda Irfan bhai was always very helpful. In fact, he is my mentor and I have always looked up to him for many things in cricket. He is like an elder brother to me. Bhajji pa (Harbhajan Singh) was the first one to send me an SMS when I got selected and he is very close since we have played together for the Mumbai Indians. Munaf Patel is close and also Yuvi pa (Yuvraj Singh)


Had you ever interacted with Dhoni before you joined the Indian team in Australia?
Even though I hadn’t had a conversation with him, some players had told me that he liked my game. He has been a great backer ever since I became part of the national team.


There was a time when you used to go to different villages of Gujarat and used to play in the matches for just 400 rupees. Did you ever believe at that point in time that cricket could really change your life?
I always had this thing in my mind that only cricket can give what I want in life. I was not against studies but I knew from the beginning that bat and ball and not books will change my life. The tough time matured me (a bit early perhaps) as I was just 17 years old but I had the mind of a 20-year-old at that time. Cricket and life were teaching some great lessons. At an early age only, I got the responsibility to run the house. For a couple of years, I and my coach, Jitendra Singh, worked like anything and you know we were working day and night. We used to go at 7am and come back by evening. That is why I always praise my coach and obviously Kiran More sir. He has always been a great supporter. He has always been there and has helped me whenever I needed.


Who is your hero? Someone, you want to be like?
A lot of people will find it hard to believe that Wasim Jaffer (former India opener) was my childhood hero and I wanted to bat like him. People may say that our games are entirely different but I could correlate with his batting since I am not just a T20 batsman. I am batting at NO 3 since I was 19 year old. Yes, I do love hitting big sixes but want to carve a niche as a proper Test player. Jacques Kallis is someone whom I admire most for his sheer consistency with bat and ball for such a long period in international cricket. When he used to bowl, he was the proper fast bowler and when he used to bat, he batted like a proper batsman and while fielding he was always brilliant. So that’s why I idolise him because I want to be the same kind of cricketer for my nation.

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