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The Story of Hardik Pandya: From the Streets of Struggle to the Roads of Glory

Hardik Pandya's journey has been an inspirational one.


Australia v India - Game 1
Hardik Pandya

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying,n sacrifice and most of all, love of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.

                                                                                                                            -Pele

The words above perfectly sum up what success actually means. It is not something that happens by accident or by luck. Rather, it is something that is a result of hard work, determination, and love for what you do. Similarly, Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s recent success is also a result of his constant efforts to achieve what he always wanted to.

His international debut for India in the T20I series in Australia was just the beginning. And his superb century against Sri Lanka in the final Test of the three match series at Pallekele finally showed that his transition from a T20I to a Test match player is finally complete. He has now started his journey towards the pinnacle of success.

However, things were not that easy for him a couple of years back. Along with keeping his passion for cricket alive, he had to toil hard with his brother, Krunal Pandya, to make both ends meet for his family.


Don't judge a book by its cover

At present, he may appear to be a party guy if you go by his mere looks and appearance. His lavish lifestyle, consistent presence on social media, swag, and style does give that kind of an impression.

However, those who are aware of his back-story, know how grounded a person he is. A humble beginning and early life struggle had hard-wired him from inside and thus had helped him to fulfill his dream after overcoming the hardships.

During an interview with the Indian Express in 2016, Pandya had said how his life used to be before he got his chance to play in the IPL. “Five rupees ke maggi aati thi, malli ko request karke garam pani leta tha aur mein aur mere bhai ground pe bana ke khata the. Breakfast bhi wohi aur lunch bhi wohi (my brother and I used to get maggi for Rs 5 and we used to request the gardener to give us hot water and we used to prepare and eat it at the ground for lunch and breakfast). 365 days non-stop.”

“Din bhar ground pe pade rehte tha. Bahar udhari bahut ho gayi thi, jeetna aata woh turant chala jata. 10 rupees chodho, 5 rupees ke bhi vande tha (we spent the whole day at the ground. I was in deep debts and whatever money I earned sufficed only for paying the debts. Forget Rs 10, I didn’t even have Rs 5).”

Family support and struggle during teens

Pandya was not the only one who worked hard and made sacrifices. His parents did their best to give their children the best opportunities to make a name for themselves.

His father, Himanshu, had a small car finance business in Surat. He shut it down and moved to Vadodara to facilitate his sons with better cricket facilities.

He got them enrolled in Kiran More’s Cricket Academy there. Although their struggle didn’t end there, good things had started shaping up for both the brothers since then.

Australia v India - Game 1
Hardik Pandya flying high

Hardik and his elder brother Krunal started using their talents to support their family when they were mere teenagers. They used to go to nearby villages to play in local tournaments for a fee of Rs. 400-500.

“There was no name for the tournament. It was just between villages. I would play for teams like Jhambuja XI. What was the fascination? Rs 400. My brother used to get Rs 500. For a week at least, life would be normal,” Hardik had told ESPNcricinfo in January,2016.


IPL changes everything in his life

Things changed when the Mumbai Indians bought him for 10 Lakhs INR in the IPL 2015 auction. The sum of money became much bigger. Their condition changed and family became stable. His hard work had finally paid off. People started seeing the potential in him to represent India at the international stage as an all-rounder.

The wait seemed finally over as a like for like doppelganger for Kapil Dev had finally arrived after almost three decades.

“No one knew who Hardik Pandya was before 2015 IPL. I got picked for Rs 10 lakh.

If people knew me I would have got a lot more money, not that it’s only about the money. I was from a struggling family. Well, we had a good family and then things changed, father’s health and all had a grave effect. That helped us. Where we are standing now is because of that situation. It is because how we coped with that,”the 22-year old had said to the Indian Express before the Champions Trophy 2017 .


The BIG turning point

It was the half-century that he scored against the Kolkata Knight Riders in his debut edition of the IPL that made him a familiar face. However, it was his 8-ball 21 against the Chennai Super kings that unveiled the real talent in him.

His ability to finish off games single handedly came to the fore. He had the rare ability to hit the long ball from the very first delivery he faced.

“Before the match I did not want to play because I had a very bad catch in my neck. But the Mumbai trainer, Paul Chapman, said: "You seriously want to miss the game for this neck sprain? Who cares? Just have the painkillers and play."
“Even 10 overs into the game I was not able to move my neck properly. But I had taken five painkillers. After the game I went to Chapman, hugged him and thanked him for pushing me and making me believe that pain does not matter. Imagine if I had not played that game. I don't know what my future would have been like. That game was the turning point of my career,” Pandya told ESPNcricinfo.

Sachin Tendulkar instilled the belief in him

He felt like he had got everything when Sachin Tendulkar himself had told him that he was going to play for India soon. Those words were really encouraging for him to work even harder. After a warm-up at the Wankhede Stadium, Sachin had told Pandya:

"The way you are playing, in one and a half years you are going to play for India. That capability you have.”But, things happened sooner than even Tendulkar had anticipated and there was Pandya with his maiden international cap in the T20I series against Australia in January 2016.

“He told me, "You can play shots, so you can take time." Right now I am doing the same thing. I am not hitting sixes from the first ball. I am taking a good 15 balls before going for the big sixes. He used to tell me during the IPL that I can take time and cover up later. I did not understand what he meant then. Since I was batting at No. 7 the team would need something quick-fire, so I used to hit from the first ball. Now for Baroda, I am batting at No. 3, so I am getting a good amount of balls and time.”

Tendulkar’s advice is visible in his approach to the game now. On course to his maiden Test century, Pandya started off slowly. He took a good amount of deliveries to settle down and then started taking on the bowlers in his own way. He took 61 deliveries for his first fifty and then scored the next 50 runs in 25 deliveries to bring up a memorable maiden Test ton for himself.

Pandya was selected in the Indian squad solely because of his talent.

This century could have come much earlier and that too, in a match like the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan. However, his valiant knock of 76 runs off just 43 deliveries was cut short by an unfortunate run-out.

Nevertheless, things happen as they are destined to be and more importantly, Pandya has time on his side. He is just 24 years old now and can prove to be a valuable prospect for Indian cricket in the coming time ahead.

Pandya was selected to play for the Indian team purely because of his talent and the potential he had shown as an all-rounder.

Statistics of 764 runs and 24 wickets in 17 first class matches certainly do not make enough justification for selection in the Indian squad. However, when you see him bat, bowl and field, you would not be able to sit quietly at all. He is flamboyant.

His playing style is exciting and aggressive. He is a perfect fit for the modern version of fast paced cricket. And now he has started to find success in Test cricket as well and that too, in his own unique style.


The India A tour in 2016 and stint with

Pandya's transition from a limited overs player to a Test player didn’t happen overnight. A lot of credit goes to the India A tour in 2016. He played some very good knocks in that series. In one match, he walked out to bat when the team was on a score of 46/6 and he went on to score 81 from there.

Selectors thought that he was ready to play in the ODIs as well and selected him to play in the New Zealand series. Some good performances earned him a Test call-up for the England series but he was ruled out with an injury. However, he came back strongly in the ODI and T20I series and played some great knocks along with bowling crucial spells.


He gives a lot of credit for his success to Rahul Dravid. He instilled the belief in Pandya that he can be a real match winner for India.

“I still remember I ran myself out in the league game against Australia A. We needed some 23 off 19 balls then, and I thought this will be easy, but then we lost by 1 run. He was not angry. He just said that, “You should start finishing the games. That’s what you’ll be doing for India.” And I thought if Rahul Dravid has this belief in me, I should also start believing that I can finish games, “ Pandya had told the Indian Express.

Pandya’s numbers now read fairly good in all formats of the game. He averages 41.28 and 59.33 with the bat in 17 ODIs and 2 Test matches respectively. His bowling stats seem to be good also as he averages 23.75 and 34.73 in Tests and ODIs respectively. His recent and also the maiden Test and first class century will give him much confidence going forward.


All the hardships seem worth it now

Pandya has come along a long way now after a lot of struggle. He still remembers those days, those hardships that he went through.

“All those days are gone, what a life it was! I tell myself I have ‘dum’. Or else how could I have reached here? How could you enjoy life when there is no struggle. Just imagine when we came to play in Mumbai during the under-19 days, we used to take photographs with Trident Hotel as backdrop. Years later, I stayed there.”. 

His lifestyle has changed but probably he hasn’t changed from within. Everything that he suffered might seem to be worth the success to him now.

And Yes! He still loves Maggi. And he still eats it.

 

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