India all-rounder Hardik Pandya, in chat with senior commentator Harsha Bhogle, opened up about his initial years of struggle and the rapport he shares with Mumbai Indians teammates Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and brother Krunal.
Pandya’s flashy style, on and off the field, has earned him fans but has also coped a fair amount of criticism. The 26-year-old revealed that he had tried changing himself a few years ago, only to revert back to type.
“In 2015, I got a lot of success with Mumbai Indians but 2016 happened to be one of my worst years in the IPL,” Pandya said.
“There were a lot of suggestions from people that I had to be calmer; to not talk much. I tried changing myself. There were no hairstyles or anything but that was the time I decided that I needed to be true to myself.”
Pandya added: “I learned from an early age, I realised that there will be ups and downs. I never questioned if I belong, even when I had a poor season.”
Pandya hasn’t played a Test since September 2018, appearing in a total of 11 five-day matches, but has cemented his place as a big-hitting all-rounder in the limited-overs formats. He is currently on road to recovery from the back injury he suffered in late 2018.
“I see myself as a back-up seamer for sure. After my back surgery [last year], I don’t know, playing Test cricket right now will be a challenge. If I was a Test player and didn’t have the game in white-ball cricket, I could go now and risk my back in Tests but I know my importance in white ball cricket,” Pandya said.
Pandya first picked up the back injury in 2018 when he was stretchered off the field during an Asia Cup match against Pakistan. Recalling the day, Pandya said he thought his career was over.
“I genuinely thought that my career is over because I’d never seen anyone being stretchered off. I was knocked out for 10 minutes, after that the pain never went down.”
The Baroda all-rounder said he never talks about the game with MI skipper Rohit Sharma while terming Bumrah as someone who is a stark contrast to him.
“Rohit and I never talk about the game and some of my best moments have come with him. He is a great captain. Jassi is someone who thinks ten times before saying something. Man, I can never be like him. Our journeys have also been identical, having played our first series together [against Australia in 2016].”
Pandya also shed light on how he got into the game. “I had no intention of playing cricket,” he said.
“It was because of Krunal [that I started playing]. There were five people in one room and a bathroom where I used to stay in Baroda. I played sport to release my anger. It was a source to spend my energy. I wanted a good life. I used to frequently pick fights with people when I was young.
“Mentally, I was not strong when I started playing Test cricket but still survived because I had the technique.
“Whatever I have right now was not even on the cards. Krunal and I often talk about it whenever we are together,” Pandya added.
Watch Hardik Pandya’s interview with Harsha Bhogle on Cricbuzz here: