New kid on the block Manish Pandey, who became the first Indian to hit a century in the just-concluded IPL in South Africa, on Wednesday said he was indebted to Rahul Dravid for motivating him on and off the field.
"I always look up to him as a cricketer. (Rahul) Dravid-sir is a legend and he really motivated me on and off the field... I'm really indebted to him," Pandey told PTI over phone from Bangalore.
"I was really fortunate to bat with him (Dravid) in the semi-final against Chennai Super Kings... I grew up watching him and Sachin Tendulkar so I really feel lucky to have played with them," he said on his return from South Africa.
The Karnataka batsman went into the record books, hitting the highest T20 score (114 not out) by an Indian. His match winning knock guided Royal Challengers Bangalore into the IPL semifinals with a win over Deccan Chargers.
Pandey also scored a crucial 48 to help his side beat favourites Chennai Super Kings in the semifinals, a knock that earned him praise from opponents skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"He personally congratulated me... It feels great to be praised by the Team India skipper. He is an amazing captain and carries himself so well on the field," Pandey said.
The 19-year-old Pandey described his outstanding success as the defining moment of his career and credited it to his fearless attitude.
"Twenty20 cricket is all about hitting the ball outside the boundary... It does not really matter who the bowler is... I just like to play with aggression," the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman said.
"I am more confident now. IPL is a big stage and the performance will surely help me go further. It's probably a turning point in my cricketing career," said the 19-year-old batsman, who bagged two back-to-back Man-of-the-Match awards to help his side seal a final berth in the high-profile event.
Eyeing the Champions League T20 in October, he adds: "I hope to carry on with my confidence and come up with a good show in the opening edition of the tournament. Then, there is domestic season."
The T20 specialist, however, said he was not afraid of longer version of the game.
"Longer version of cricket tests your cricketing ability. You got be very patient and I am looking forward to prove myself there in the upcoming domestic season," the youngster said.
Obviously, after the 'big' performance, Pandey, son of an Army colonel has dropped the idea of joining defence which he had thought as an alternate career.
"I hope I can do it big (in cricket) now... My dad has been my biggest support and everybody -- my mom and younger sister -- in my family backs me," said Pandey.
At nine years, Pandey, on his father's insistence, had picked up cricket after joining Syed Kirmani's coaching academy in Bangalore.
His father's profession took me all over India including Rajasthan (Suratgarh) and Maharashtra (Nashik) before coming back to Bangalore five years ago.
Pandey then got picked for U-17 Karnataka side after three hundreds in a tournament. He was later picked for the U-19 India side that won the World Cup in 2008.