The surprise selection in India’s Test squad for the upcoming 5-match series against England, Hardik Pandya has credited Rahul Dravid for transforming him as a cricketer by improving his mental strength. The 23-year old from Baroda cited the experience of playing under the legendary batsman’s tutelage whilst touring Australia a few months back with India ‘A’.
Pandya revealed, “For me, everything changed after my tour of Australia with the India ‘A’ team. It is a tour that transformed me as a cricketer. I can’t but thank Rahul Dravid (India ‘A’ coach) enough for his contribution. I understood that there is a mental aspect about the game that needs to be worked upon. He (Dravid) made me mentally stronger.”
He added, “I don’t think I have learnt more than what I did during those one and half months under Rahul sir. He would tell me about things that I need to try out. I was mentally strong but after interacting with him, I understood that I could get even better. If my bowling is being talked about today, it’s because of Rahul sir and Paras Mhambrey (India ‘A’ bowling coach).
India ‘A’ kick started the tour by winning the quadrangular 50-overs tournament which was followed by a couple of four-day matches against Australia ‘A’ at Allan Border Field in Brisbane. Though the visitors lost the opening match by 3 wickets, Pandya managed to impress with the ball. In the next game, he launched a blistering counter-attack to help his side rebound from 46/6 to a respectable 169. Eventually, the contest ended in a draw while the all rounder grabbed the attention of MSK Prasad who is now the Chairman of Selectors.
Looking ahead to being a part of the number one Test side in the world, Pandya enthused, “Playing Test cricket is ultimate for anyone and I am no different. Yes, this is my biggest achievement till date. In fact, on Wednesday the Baroda team was traveling to Raipur for their Ranji game. I told the boys that let me stay back in Mumbai for a day. If I don’t get selected, I will join you guys next day. It was the happiest moment.“
With spin set to play a major factor in the series which is largely expected to be played on spin-friendly pitches, Pandya’s seam-up could come in handy if the team management decides to go for five bowling options without compromising on the batting depth.
The right-armer felt, “The more you practice the craft, better you get at it. I bowled so much in Australia that it yielded results when I was back with the senior team. The increase in pace has got a lot to do with the rhythm. The more I play at this level, the better I will get. I used to bat at No 3 for Baroda and then I have been batting at No 5 in Ranji Trophy. I have to be realistic that in the Indian team, I can’t bat at No 5. I would be probably batting at No 8 or No 9. I am perfectly fine with it. I am ready to bat at any position.”
The India-England series is scheduled to begin at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot from November 9.