Hardik’s meteoric rise

It was the year 2015! Mumbai Indians hadn’t got off to a desirable start to the Indian Premier League season, and it came down to a situation where winning every match was all but necessary. In the midst of all the struggles, a tall, lanky, young lad named Hardik Pandya was awarded his debut for MI against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Little did the world know what he was made of, what skills he had in his repertoire and how much he would achieve back then. Today though, the cricket-following India and cricket-following nations around the world recognize the name Hardik Pandya, and are fully aware of the skills the all-rounder possesses. On his IPL debut itself, Hardik came into bat at number eight and blasted two sixes to announce his arrival among the big names in cricket.

Since that day when Hardik made his debut, he hasn’t looked back. His brother joined him a year later and both made waves after waves for MI. Fans have seen Hardik’s animated celebrations, his towering sixes and his wicket-taking ability. What they don’t know is perhaps how he struggled to get where he is at the moment. “It was difficult to maintain a diet, financially it was a problem. During the U-19 days, my diet would be maggi. Back then, there were many issues in the family. Hence, I would have maggi before the match and after going home in the night.” He is glad he went through those struggles and reckons that such times have made him stronger. “It has been a beautiful journey. I am very grateful, and it is because of that situation that I have got here.”

To a lot of people in Bardoa, Hardik Pandya’s growth didn’t seem like much of a struggle as the family had a car. However, that was just the surface. What lay beneath was a different story all together. “We had bought a car, but there were no savings. Wherever Krunal and I would go to play matches, we would go in the car. Krunal would earn Rs. 500 for a game while I would make Rs. 400. But, we would always travel in the car, as nothing is bigger in life than self-respect. We would go to a petrol pump and buy 2-litre petrol in different bottles. A second bottle would serve as back-up so that we could at least get home, as we didn’t know how long the first would last. This was my story till six months before I played in the IPL.”

Kits were hard to come by! Hardik couldn’t afford to buy a kit and had to resort to external assistance to get hold of one. “We had to take cricket kits from Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) for a year. I was 17 and Krunal was 19 back then! People would think that we had a car, but couldn’t afford a kit. People did not know the real situation. It was a motive between me and Krunal that we will never take sympathies from anyone, no matter what. We would be strong during good and bad.”

Hardik Pandya waded his way through these struggles and many more. His father suffered a couple of heart attacks and the financial situation at home took a hit. “The financial problems started after that and we couldn’t expect him to earn post the health issues. We had no savings and perhaps we spent more than what we earned.”

When Hardik broke through to the Mumbai Indians setup, he was thrilled when he made his debut and finished the innings with a cameo. “I had walked out to bat in a funny situation of sorts. They (RCB) had a bowler named David Wiese and he had claimed three wickets in an over. I went out to bat in a hurry, and went to Bhajji pa. He asked me to live my life. I went on to hit two sixes.”

Hardik was awestruck when he encountered Indian and MI legend, Sachin Tendulkar for the first time. “I was having my food and someone tapped my shoulder from behind and said ‘Hi.’ I turned around and literally dropped my plate. I was astounded! No one had informed us that he would be coming over. It took about 20-25 minutes for me to gather himself.” Mid-way through the season Tendulkar had a few words of appreciation as well for Pandya and he was overjoyed when he heard them. “He told me that I am doing very well and that I have the talent and potential to play for India in the next one or one-and-a-half years. I called Krunal up and told him what Sir had said. For my family it didn’t matter whether I played for India or not. Since it was Sachin Sir who had said this. It gave me assurance that I could do something good for myself.”

Hardik Pandya has been a vital cog in the wheel since 2015, and has been a part of two title-winning teams – one in his debut season and the other a few months ago, during the tenth edition of the IPL. Hardik got his T20I debut in early 2016 and his performance in the World T20 made him even more popular among fans. Later that year, he went on to make his ODI debut as well, impressing with the ball on debut.

A major dream came true for Hardik when he received his Test cap on India’s tour to Sri Lanka for the first Test. He had been a part of the Test squad for a while and it was only a matter of time before he played his first Test. Pandya went on to contribute with both bat and ball in a remarkable victory. He scored a half century in his very first innings in Tests and also scalped his first wicket thereafter. Hardik Pandya’s rise is meteoric and skipper Virat Kohli has faith in his all-round abilities stating that he could be for India what Ben Stokes is for England. The Baroda boy’s future seems bright and safe and it may not be long before we see another set of brothers from Baroda play together for India.

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