The way to the Indian team for Hardik Pandya was paved by Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Mumbai Indians (MI). Pandya, before making his international debut, had made a name for himself in the cash-rich league because of his hitting abilities.
Started with a base price of only INR 10 lakh, he had grabbed the attention of Ricky Ponting with his all-around ability. He has become a different player now with sharpening skills and more mature as a cricketer with grown cricket sense.
Hardik was one of the first choices of MI when they were asked to name the retained players this year. No wonder the Baroda cricketer now calls Mumbai his first home. “First of all, Mumbai Indians has become my first home as I live in Mumbai now,” Hardik Pandya told Times Now in an exclusive interview.
From Rohit Sharma in MI, Irfan Pathan in domestic cricket, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in international level, Hardik has found support from various cricketers. But he kept Ponting above all.
“Ricky is someone who has been fantastic. Even the way he backed me. Yes, my international career started with MS. But the actual career which I think that people started noticing me was because of Ricky. He backed me, he saw something in me. You need opportunities, someone who backs you. You need the support which Ricky gave. It made me play freely. I was a different cricketer altogether,” Pandya said.
Pandya said Ponting treated him like a younger brother.
“I learned so much. There were things I didn’t understand which he explained to me. More than anything else, such a legend talking to you so normally and treating you like his little brother and a son,” the 25-year-old said.
The bonding is still there. “I am still very close with him. He explained to me how things happened at the big circuit and how I needed to play in different situations,” Hardik added.
Pandya is set to return to international cricket, after spending time due to a back injury. Recently, after proving his fitness in domestic level, BCCI named him in the squad for last two Tests against Australia.
(With Times Now Inputs)