Whacking the ball hard and far is his natural game but rising Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya insists on being a batsman and not a pinch hitter. Right – handed batsman and a right – arm medium fast bowler Hardik Pandya has earned many admirers with his spellbound performance in IPL 2017 and has won over several hearts with his aggressive style of batting. For a player who is so consistent and confident, it is surprising that he states he did not consider himself supremely talented to begin with; he says he has put in all his sweat and blood and worked doubly hard to set the standards.
When Hardik Pandya stroked 18 – balls 31 against Bangladesh in the Asia cup he said hitting sixes has always given him inexplicable joy. Pandya started practicing cricket since he was 5 years old and was coached by former Indian Wicket Keeper Kiran More during his teenage days. He got selected in the Baroda team in 2013. In 2013-14 season of Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy he played a very crucial role for the Baroda team. During the first match of the tournament, the team was playing against Mumbai and was struggling in their batting innings at 20/2, Pandya walked in to rescue the team and scored 82* in 57 balls and got Baroda team to win the match. His spellbound inning impressed everyone, especially John Wright, who was associated with Mumbai Indian’s ‘Think Tank’, Wright was so impressed by his performance that he also went to watch his next match against Gujarat. Hardik once again impressed him by scoring 37 runs and taking 3 wickets in four overs.
After such an incredible performance, Pandya was bought by the Mumbai Indians team in 2015 IPL Auction at the base price of Rs. 10 Lakhs. He not just impressed all his team mates by clean ball striking as well as fielding but also the audiences. In his IPL debut against Royal Challengers Bangalore he faced the first ball in David Wiese’s over, it was Weise’s last ball in the over when Pandya took a single and saw that Abu Nechim would bowl the final over, that is when Harbhajan Singh went up to him and said “Jee le yaar tu” and Pandya hit two sixes in the over. In the match against Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2015 he scored 21 runs in 8 balls and helped Mumbai Indians win the match. Later, he played an inning of 61 runs off 31 balls in the must win required by Mumbai Indians to survive in the tournament. He played a stellar role in IPL 2015 winning two ‘Man of the Match’ awards. Looking at his phenomenal performances in all the matches, one day Sachin Tendulkar called him over and told him that if he continues playing like this, he would play for the Indian Cricket team in the next eighteen months.
Pandya continued his game at the domestic circuit when during one of the matches, he took 10 wickets for Baroda in a match and led the team to the finals. Apparently Pandya got selected for 2016 Asia Cup where he took 2 wickets in the first match against Australia. In the match against Pakistan, he took 3 wickets for 8 runs restricting Pakistan to 83 runs and helping India win the match. In ICC World Twenty20, Pandya is remembered for the unforgettable match against Bangladesh where he took 2 wickets in the last 3 balls and helped India win the match by just a run. Apart from International Cricket, Pandya continued his form in the domestic circuit as well and slammed sixes and scored 86 runs against Vidarbha in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy helping his team win the match. He made his ODI debut on 16th October 2016 and received his ODI cap from the legend Kapil Dev.
Life has changed tremendously in the last 2 years for Hardik Pandya and his family, in an interview, he was heard saying “there was a time when I didn’t have a bat to play in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, I called up Irfan bhai (Irfan Pathan) and he gave me two bats to play and now, even if I have one match bat I carry 7-8 extra bats with me.” In his ODI debut match he took 3 wickets and helped India win the match. Hardik Pandya is the fourth Indian player to receive the ‘Man of the Match’ award in debut after Sandeep Patil, Mohit Sharma and K. L. Rahul. His performance in the recently concluded IPL season where Mumbai Indians won the finals has been stunning as always. With confidence and aggression like this, he is definitely the future of Indian cricket.