India all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s focus is on recovering from his back injury; critics, who point to his disappointing wickets tally (17 in 11 Tests), do not get into his mind space at the moment
Hardik Pandya at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Hardik Pandya completed two years in ODI cricket last Tuesday. Having made his debut against New Zealand at Dharamsala, he has made a swift transition to Test cricket since his international debut [T20I v Australia at Adelaide Oval] in 2016.
Pandya indicated that it would have been hard to imagine playing all three formats two to three years ago. “I never expected it to pan out this way. God has been really kind to me,” a relaxed-looking Pandya told mid-day in the city yesterday. Currently recuperating from a back injury that he sustained against Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dubai, the India all-rounder was in the city to promote Eume, a backpack brand. Pandya will donate 100 backpacks to India’s budding gymnasts.
Excerpts from an interview:
How is your recovery shaping up?
I am recovering well. This is the world’s first backpack with a massager. You can’t ask for anything more from a bag (laughs). I am just focusing on getting fit as soon as possible because I want to come back and play for India. There is no bigger pleasure.
The injury break must have been frustrating…
I got to spend time with my family. In the last couple of years, I have played almost all matches. This [break] is helping me get more fitter and better for the  World Cup. My focus is on the World Cup and this time [away from the game] will help. When I go back on the field, I will be able to add that 10 more per cent to what I have right now. My ultimate goal is to win the World Cup.
How much will the experience of playing in UK help in 2019?
Of course it will help. We were there [in UK] for almost three months and it’s going to help us a lot because it’s important to get used to the conditions. It always makes a big difference if you have an idea of the conditions.
How crucial was claiming your maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket at Trent Bridge?
It definitely boosted my confidence. I wanted to do well and the conditions were tough. To be honest, when I took the fifer, I was surprised. We all worked hard but the result didn’t go our way [India lost the series 1-4]. I am improving with my bowling from series to series, and it all happened at the right time when I needed it the most. I am sure it [bowling performance] is going to help me when we play next [in England].
Critics often point out that you don’t have too many wickets [17 scalps in 11 Tests]…
The best part is that I didn’t know about this until you just told me [laughs]. If my team is happy with me, I’m not worried about what people say about me. As an individual, if I start worrying about what people say, then I’m not doing anything in my life. I don’t have time to think about it [what others say]. I’d rather focus on my game and look to improve. If my team wants more from me, I will work harder. If my team is happy with me, it doesn’t matter what people say. India has freedom of speech, right? They are allowed to talk and I respect that.
What are your plans for the forthcoming Australia tour?
Right now, I am just looking to get fit. That’s my priority. I want to be stronger than before. I want to come back as soon as possible, but I don’t know when I’ll be back.
You seem very keen on playing the World Cup next year…
My priority is to play the next World Cup. I just don’t want to play and give 100 per cent, I want to add 10-15 per cent more to my game. That’s something I’m working on. That’s my only focus right now. I want to make sure India win the World Cup. I want to improve on all my skills… batting, bowling and fielding. I can’t be 60 per cent bowling [well], 40 per cent batting [well]. I have to be equally good in all departments.
How do you deal with the pressure of being the only fast bowling all-rounder in the team?
Pressure gives you nice opportunities. Without pressure, I can’t do anything. I need pressure as it helps me.