The influence of Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli can be seen in the improvement of India all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who captains India A in a game against the Australians starting on Friday. There is no better role model for Indian cricketers than skipper Virat Kohli given his discipline and Pandya has taken after him in his lifestyle.
A happy-go-lucky character, the Baroda player had shown a tendency to get carried away by his initial success, but after suffering a dip in form he seems to have mended his ways.
India’s chief selector MSK Prasad had mentioned about Pandya’s maturity and credited junior coach Rahul Dravid’s work during the India A tour of Australia last year. The changed approach has paid dividends and Pandya has won back a place in India’s limited overs as well as Test teams.
“In terms of my work ethic, I am more focused now. My eating, sleeping and workout habits have changed. Everything is being monitored and that has helped a lot. I am stronger now, I am eating better now, I sleep around 9.30-10pm. I am reading the game better. The processes are better now. Cricket is something that is very important to me and I should focus on it at this moment,” said Pandya.
After a promising start in Twenty20 internationals in Australia, Pandya, 23, experienced a slump in form and was no longer an automatic selection in the playing XI. To his credit, he has come back stronger and impressed with his pace when he got a chance in the one-dayers against New Zealand.
Pandya said he didn’t change anything technically in his bowling, but sees it as the result of his discipline and focus.
“I haven’t done anything specific to increase my speeds. I have changed some habits; I sleep early, eat quality food, sometimes boiled food, train well to get stronger and fitter. Virat Kohli has set a great example and I try to follow him,” said Pandya.
What the Indian chief selector meant by Pandya having become a more mature cricketer was he showing better understanding in handling situations. It is the result of Dravid explaining to him the difference between stupidity and responding to the situation.
“Rahul sir told me one thing during the Australia tour, that cricket is a game of situations. If your team is 45 for five, you can’t go there and play your natural game, hit one in the air and get out and say ‘I was playing my natural game’. He said that’s stupidity.
“And that has helped me a lot. Now I play according to the situation. If you see, in Pune (first ODI vs England) the situation demanded that I play a steady innings, in Cuttack (second ODI) I had to score quickly, so I played shots. I have learned that everything is about situation and ability to play accordingly.”
As for self-belief, he gained through working with his Mumbai Indians coach Ricky Ponting during the Indian Premier League. “Ricky was someone who from the start helped me. Someone like him, saying good things about you was amazing. He was always there for me during practice sessions, give throw-downs or talk. With him I was a different person, everything was new for me. Now I think I belong here.”