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True to His Name, Hardik Pandya Plays His Game ‘Dil Se’

Hardik Pandya is a showman, an uninhibited hitter of the ball and a candid soul who lives life to the fullest.

Published
Cricket
3 min read
Hardik Pandya celebrates a wicket with Yuvraj Singh during the World T20.
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Hardik – heartfelt or dil se, as the name implies – of Indian Cricket sincerely attempts at doing everything from his heart. Hardik Pandya lives his life to the hilt, enjoys every moment, every occasion to the fullest, and in the process, he also plays his cricket... Dil se.

In the current Indian team, he is a showman, an uninhibited hitter of the ball, and a candid soul who just wants to do everything to the maximum. He is carefree and burden free. He changes his hairstyle like days on a calendar, and his attitude is contagious and worth catching.

Characters like him lighten up the dressing room and lift the spirit of everyone around them. So it goes that in the dressing room, he is regarded as a West Indian spirit trapped in an Indian body.
Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a cricketer who is willing to take up any challenge and deliver. Who wants to go out and stamp his authority on the game and is willing to demonstrate his ability at any given point.

He’s a sensitive son, who created an emotional moment on social media, by gifting his father his dream car while on tour, and recorded the entire moment.

Hardik can win team matches with the bat, and make the crucial breakthroughs with the ball when needed the most. In the game of cricket, such players are called ‘all-rounders’ and they are like gold dust.  And if one is a seaming all-rounder, nothing is better than that.

However, Hardik came raw and uncut, with his rough edges and issues. He came with an amazing approach, heaps of exuberance, mixed with loads of talent and two skill sets. On top of it, he had the confidence to express himself.  But energy that’s not channelised is energy wasted.  Everyone acknowledged his ability, but cautioned about the pitfalls that lie ahead. He had his share of fame and failures, springs and winters.

The World T20 2016 was a classic example. In one game against Bangladesh, he was hailed as a hero for bowling that amazing over to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat. And then, in the all-important semi-final, that dreaded no ball gave a reprieve to West Indies’ Lendl Simmons.

His talent was making news and his exuberance was creating murmurs.  He was talented, but was he reliable was the big question.

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Just at that point, Hardik was sent to the laboratory of Rahul Dravid. Whoever appointed Dravid as the India A and Under-19 coach was aware that not only will he nurture young talent, but will also help people like Hardik figure out their priorities while standing at the crossroads of their career.

Pandya was sent with the India A team for the Australia tour, and someone on that tour informed that Dravid spent lot of time with Hardik, on and off the field to align his thoughts and purpose.  Without tweaking his natural character and ability, Dravid must have guided him on how to convert his liveliness into performance.

Hardik came back, informed and transformed.  The current team management took it from there. They understood the importance of a player like Hardik, and what he brings to the table. They supported him and encouraged him to find his best. Since then, in every match, he has been thrown into a new challenge and situation, and Hardik has emerged as a mature player, ready to be relied upon.

He has a Test hundred to his name, and has been asked to bat at the crucial number four position in ODIs. In this series against Australia, he has shown remarkable sensibility to play the situation, and not his natural game.
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Since 1994, we have been a nation in search of a certain Kapil Dev. Every captain since Kapil’s retirement has lamented the lack of a player like the 1983 World Cup winning captain. And every time we see glimpse of a talent like him, we don’t take much time to name him as “Kapil Dev in the making”. This leads to the player being burdened with expectations. No wonder Kapil doesn’t want Hardik to be loaded with this burden.

With his attitude and ability, Hardik is closest to Kapil. He is supremely fit, is a great fielder in the deep, can swing the ball both ways at good speed, and is the cleanest hitter of a cricket ball.

But to reach where the great man reached, all Hardik needs to do is mix his junoon with sukoon. Keep people around him who help keep his feet firmly on the ground while flying high with his talent. Rest will take care of itself.

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(Nishant Arora is an award-winning cricket journalist, and most recently, the media manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He also co-authored the best-selling book on Yuvraj Singh’s battle with cancer.)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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