ICC T20 World Cup 2022: 'There was a time when I didn't know what was next for me' - Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya's fruitful knock of 40, aided by Virat Kohli's unbeaten 82 allowed India to triumph over Pakistan in the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup. Meanwhile, Pandya has admitted that he doubted himself at a point.
A few years back, all-rounder Hardik Pandya had no idea what the future would hold for him. However, once the fear of failure was gone, he loved the version of himself that emerged. Since he returned to competitive cricket after a self-imposed rehab to regain his bowling fitness, he has led a new team (Gujarat Titans) to an Indian Premier League (IPL) title and contributed with some crucial all-round performances for India. Two of his most significant shows this year have been versus arch-rivals Pakistan, where he has excelled in both game departments.
"There was a time when I didn't know what was next for Hardik. So, I had to get very involved in my thought process and question myself, "What do you want from life?" Pandya referred to himself in the third person while answering a question from PTI in the mixed media zone.
So, what was his biggest takeaway when he was out of action? "I have got the fear of failure out, and I don't bother about what's going to happen and what the result is going to be, what are people going to talk, but I do respect people's opinion," Pandya responded.
If one closely watched Pandya in 2018-19 and now in 2022, there is a stark difference in attitude. His life has changed entirely in the interim. He became a father and also lost his father, who was more like his friend. Perhaps, it has made him more approachable and a bit informal. He asked the scribes if they would mind him sitting on the floor, although the norm of the mixed zone is to stand in a designated area.
Then, when the International Cricket Council (ICC) representatives wanted him to hurry up, he replied in his booming baritone voice: "Aarrey inke 4 questions hai. Abhi sirf ak huwa hai. Baki 3 puchne toh doh [He has asked just one of his four questions. Let him ask the remaining three]."
When asked if he likes the current version of himself, Hardik smiled. "Yes, I can say that. I was also telling Rahul [Dravid] sir that ten months back, when I entered the ground, I was pleased, smiling and excited. Rahul sir must have thought I was over-excited about the game."
"I just told him, this is what I wanted to do till I play the sport. Enjoy the sport and contribute as much as possible and at a certain standard that I expect myself to play at," added Pandya. For him, the last seven months have been the best of his life. "As you said about the last six to seven months, I will count the time away from the game I was preparing as one of the best moments of my life. It taught me many things and got me on a way I would have never imagined," he answered.
"And that's when I realized that it is time for you to be what you want to be playing at the highest level, being able to contribute in every game, no matter what the result would be but being there, allowing yourself to contribute as much as possible," Pandya explained.
Pandya wants to count his blessings, looking at where he was and where he has now reached. "I don't think I would like to change anything in my life, and this would be the best six months. I might have better days, but the journey which has happened and from where I have come and reached, I am very grateful to my family and the people who helped me," he reckoned.
Instead, score an impactful 40 in the high-stakes game
For Pandya, the quantum of runs doesn't matter as much as the impact his scores bring. "For me, these [against Pakistan] are the games that make heroes. I don't want to perform in a dead rubber where the team is already cruising, and I come in and smash 80 runs. I like to score those 40s and 50's when my team needs me more. Maybe a 40-ball 40, but that's fine," he explained.
India won a humdinger of the last ball of the match. But, had the result gone the other way, the Baroda man would still be happy. "Even when there were three balls left, I told the boys, even if we lose it, it's okay. I am just proud of the manner we have fought in this game. We have been a team that has worked hard individually and collectively," Pandya affirmed.
"Even if we had lost the game, I would have smiled and told myself, 'You know what, they were good on that day, but we tried everything'," he counted. Down the line, Pandya has "accepted the fact" that the sport will bring ups and downs.
Taking the game deep was key
To Pandya, it never occurred that the chance of winning the match had gone begging when they were reduced to 31 for 4. "Partnership needed to be built and allow Virat and me to take the game deep, we were 31/4, and we didn't have many options to play the big shots," he stated.
The other reason is that an indiscreet shot selection at the onset would have spelt doom. Hence, they didn't take any risks. "If you don't try and stick around and instead play a big shot at getting out, you would never know what were the possibilities if you had stuck around and can play risk-free cricket and take the game deep. Our mind was clear. So when we needed 50 odd in 3 overs, not for once did we think that the target wasn't achievable. We had the belief," Pandya defined.
(With inputs from PTI)