Ever since the retirement of legendary Kapil Dev in 1994, Indian cricket was in a desperate hunt for pace bowling all-rounder. There were many that made their name for a brief period of time, but none went on to play for a considerable period of time. No wonder, Indian cricket fans cherish every bit of their newly found seam bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
After proving his mettle in the limited-overs cricket, Pandya has now started to show the glimpse of his immense all-round abilities in the 5-day game as well. Having recorded a 86-ball Test ton in his debut series against Sri Lanka last year, Hardik recently claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in the traditional format.
Success might be at his feet right now but the Baroda born all-rounder hasn’t changed a bit by nature. Recently, Pandya’s childhood coach, Jitendra Singh, revealed how he visited his academy and gifted him a car after returning from the Australia tour in 2016.
“Hardik had come to meet me after the Australia tour for which he was selected for the first time in India squad. He straight away took me to a car showroom, where he and Krunal (elder brother) gifted me a car,” Jitendra quoted as saying by PTI.
Hardik was introduced to cricket on the insistence of former India wicketkeeper Kiran More, who was then mentoring his elder brother Krunal at his academy. A restless Hardik used to accompany his brother and Kiran decided to channelize his energies into something positive.
“I am originally from Surat. But since the cricket facility was better in Baroda, I decided to shift with my family as we were then thinking about Krunal’s cricket. Krunal started the training under Kiran More and seven-year-old Hardik used to accompany him at the academy. Kiran Sir (More) asked him to come to his academy and didn’t even charge my boys any coaching fee,” Pandya’s father Himanshu told PTI on Monday.
He also revealed how his son turned into a fast bowler after starting as a leg-spinner.
“He was a leg spinner till the age of 18. However Baroda’s coach at that time was Sanath sir (former Karnataka seamer Sanath Kumar). He once told Hardik to bowl at the nets and he clocked around 130 kmph. Sanath sir told him to bowl another delivery and he was even quicker. Sir then told him to pursue fast bowling. However Jitendra also worked a lot with my son. He would monitor his bowling for hours at the nets,” Himanshu asserted.
Pandya’s coach recalled a junior level match where he filled in for an absent cricketer.
“Once during an U-19 match, I had only one fast bowler in the side as others were playing for Baroda Ranji and U-23 tournaments. Hardik was a leg-spinner. I asked Hardik to bowl with an aim to get him take the shine off new ball. And Hardik took five wickets in an innings. He was more effective than the genuine fast bowler, who was bowling from the other end. Sanath Kumar sir also saw Hardik during the same time and supported his endeavour to bowl quick. In the same season, Hardik was given an opportunity to play for Baroda in T20s, where he performed well and from then he never looked back,” Jitendra stated.
(With PTI inputs)