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 claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in the traditional format during the recently held England tour.
Pandya was ruled out of the Asia Cup 2018 owing to an acute back injury and is currently going through the rehab to regain full fitness.
In an exclusive interview with TOI, Hardik Pandya revealed when he will get back on the field and how is his recovery process going on.
“My recovery is on track. I've been busy with my fitness sessions and physiotherapy. I don't know when (I'll return to action), but right now I'm only focusing on getting fully fit,” Pandya quoted.
“You can't control these things. Now I've got the time to get fitter and stronger. I always take things positively. This injury was a blessing in disguise. I got time off from cricket. After this, I won't get much time off,” he added.
During the England series, legendary cricketers such as Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Holding were quite critical of Pandya’s role in the team. However, the 25-year-old is not too hassled by this.
"They've played so much cricket. Let them say it. It's OK. I've heard them so much. I respect that. I'm worthy enough that they're talking about me. If I wasn't, they wouldn't have said anything about me! I take it in a positive way," he asserted.
Pandya wants to get fit and return to action for the World Cup. He wants to contribute to the team's success and wants to focus on improving his fitness.
“I want to give more than 100% to make sure that we win the World Cup. That's why right now, I'm focusing on improving my skills, fitness, mentally I want to get stronger. Because that 10-15% (extra) would be very critical. I'll give 100%, but if I can give 10-15% more to my game, then it would give me great comfort, and I'd be able to do a lot of things which I'm not able to do now,” the all-rounder said.
India skipper Virat Kohli has been a vocal supporter of Pandya and he acknowledges the fact that the captain's confidence has helped him improve his game.
"He's (Kohli) been a great support. He's helped me improve my game, which is a fantastic quality in him. Till now, I've grown with him. My career started under MS, then Virat took over. I've improved under both of them," Pandya stated.
When asked about the all-rounder he wishes to emulate, Hardik named the Proteas legend Jacques Kallis.
“I love Jacques Kallis. The way he managed his workload…the number of games. He played in all the formats of the game, and was still fit. My goal is to be as fit as him,” he concluded.