How Sachin Tendulkar foresaw Hardik Pandya’s meteoric rise as a cricketer
Hardik Pandya has developed a lot as a cricketer in the last couple of years and Sachin Tendulkar was among the first ones to recognise his talent.cricket Updated: Jun 22, 2017 16:27 IST
Hardik Pandya might have become a regular face of the Indian cricket team, but until around two years back, he was nothing more than a Mumbai Indians recruit who could play handy knocks lower down the order. Unlike several cricketers who have had to grind on the domestic circuit for ages before earning a national call-up, Pandya’s journey, however, has been meteoric.
He made his ODI debut in October last year but impressed everyone before flying to England as part of the ICC Champions Trophy squad. He featured in every single game, scoring 105 runs, including a heroic 40-ball 76 in the final against Pakistan, and picked up four wickets.
But there was someone who knew of the talent of this 23-yeard-old long before the rest recognised it, and he told Pandya that he wouldn’t take more than “one or one-and-a-half-years” to break into the national side. And, it was none other than Sachin Tendulkar who saw Pandya from close quarters as part of the Mumbai Indians squad.
“I hadn’t made my debut then and was in Hyderabad for a do-or-die clash and we were all a bit tense. He (Tendulkar) walked up to me and suddenly said, ‘Meet me later, I need to tell you something’,” Pandya said during an episode of What the Duck season 2 recently.
“However, it was in Mumbai when I could speak to him. I saw him at the warm-up session and since I didn’t know what he wanted to tell me, I was extremely curious. He started by appreciating me for the way I was playing, before stating ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this but the way you’re playing and the potential you have in yourself, you should be playing for India in a year or one-and-a-half.’”
“I called up (brother) Krunal and told him about the incident. To my family members, it was more like it didn’t even matter if I would play for India in future. That Sachin sir had told me this was enough for them. In fact, it took me around just five-six months before I made my international debut,” Pandya added.
Although Pandya is yet to play in the longest format of the game, he has impressive numbers in the other two with an ODI average of 53 with the bat and 40.69 with the ball. His strike rate is a staggering 140.95 in the ODIs and around 134 in T20 matches.
Captain Virat Kohli, too, has praised the 23-year-old and at a press conference during the Champions Trophy, said: “He’s a real asset to Indian cricket. He can bat through the innings as well. It’s really hard to find people with that kind of ability. Once you have a player like that, you need to make sure he’s always committed to give 100 percent for the team.”