A scrawny kid running after an autorickshaw, a motor van, to catch a train, running between the wickets, running in to bowl, running to his teammates in jubilation. Just running the distance. Running all the time.
Until 2015, the year he made his Mumbai Indians debut, Pandya lived a life running against all odds. Between 2015 and last year, he ran with those very odds stacked in his favour. From here, he has to run to draw some semblance to the journey so far.
Hardik will turn 29 in October, that very month when the T20 World Cup in Australia gets underway. There’s no place in the world he’d rather be, bringing in his birthday, than Down Under, on a war footing in a format that he potentially owns.
HARDIK THE BOWLER
In 2020, when the selectors were busy picking the squad for the white-ball series in Australia, Hardik wasn’t ready to bowl his quota of overs yet. Selectors, at least a couple of them, insisted that picking Hardik in the squad – when he isn’t bowling – couldn’t be justified.
The team management, nevertheless, insisted. Even without the ball in hand, they said, Hardik was worth the trip Down Under. An unbeaten 92 off 76 balls in the third ODI in Canberra and a 22-ball 42 in the second T20 International in Sydney justified the backing.
Kem cho Ahmedabad 👋😊 https://t.co/ZsuaX6PADY
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1642821565000
Yet, it cannot be denied that with the ball in hand, bowling his full quota of overs, is what makes Hardik the quintessential white-ball cricketer. To make the upcoming trip to Australia this year, it’s this missing element he’ll have to add to his arsenal.
The win-loss percentage in Hardik’s T20 career so far, be it India or Mumbai Indians, stands neatly stacked in his favour, be it with the bat or ball. And yet, it is not just his contribution on the field alone that makes this Baroda lad consequential in the mix of things.
Enthusiasm, energy and positivity. Great session out there with the boys 💯💪 @gujarat_titans https://t.co/Lv14KQLWCo
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1647843198000
It is all the energy and vibe that he adds to the format. He is a brilliant fielder in the outfield and has the ability to bat up or down the order. He can whip up good pace at will, gets his short ball right when he wants to, and the natural urge to keep chirping at opponents – they all add to the package.
The difference in Hardik’s strike rates as batsman and economy rates as bowler in a winning cause, vis-à-vis the losing ones, is stark. It reveals just that bit about his team being left with better chances of a win whenever he gets going.
Love the new threads, our armour for our first season👌 Let’s get down to work now @gujarat_titans https://t.co/qn5mJeAo3G
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1647237653000
That’s what cricketer Hardik is capable of. Outside of those essential qualities he brings to the table, it is the emotional aspect of his life that adds great value to what he does or tries to do.
It’s not been an easy life for him.
“There was a time in my life when all that (my) family identified with was struggle. Intense financial struggle. Aisa koi din nahi hota tha jab hamari neeche ki dukaan mein udhaari nahi hoti thi (rarely a day passed that we weren’t living on credit),” he once told this paper not too long ago.
Those were the days of his father being extremely unwell and the kids finding it tough to make ends meet. The beautiful thing about Hardik is he doesn’t flinch when he has to talk and remember what’s gone by.
It’s easy to forget, especially when he is basking in the comfort of those millions that God has showered upon him and his brother Krunal in the last seven years. But that’s not him.
During the lockdown, Hardik and Krunal both did something very unique but also very inspiring. The brothers, along with their respective families, went out on the streets of Baroda and visited each and every shopkeeper who had stood by the family during their bad times.
“It was just a gesture, to thank them for all that they did for us,” he later said. Especially the nearby pharmacy store owner who gave medicines on credit when Hardik’s father was unwell.
Nothing but gratitude towards all the groundsmen, staff and everyone at the Reliance stadium in Baroda who helped m… https://t.co/POOFiO4Pmu
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1647174300000
THE ROAD AHEAD
Cricket aside, it is this genuine large-heartedness that has kept things going for Hardik, Krunal and the Pandya family. But back to cricket, he knows it’s cricket alone that’ll have to stay relevant should he aspire to accomplish more than what he has. Right now, his slate is still clean.
Hardik knows he needs to reinvent his own version 2.0 to script something memorable.