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India all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who smashed his maiden Test hundred in India’s first innings against Sri Lanka at Pallekele on Sunday, said he will be happy to become even 10 per cent of former India captain Kapil Dev. The youngster was overwhelmed with all the comparisons.
“Obviously my focus is to play my cricket and just become what I can become. Even if I can be 10 per cent of what Kapil Dev was, I will be pretty happy in my life,” Pandya said at the press conference at the end of second day’s play.
The right-hander smashed a quick-fire 108 and helped India pile on 487 before the visitors bundled out the hosts for 135 and enforced the follow-on. Pandya hit as many as seven sixes during the knock and revealed he didn’t have any butterflies while batting in the 90s.
“First time in my life I have not had the 90s butterfly. Otherwise, I don’t remember previous centuries, but I used to have butterflies from what I can remember. In today’s game when I batted I was in a different zone.
“When I bat, I don’t think about my personal scores and achievements. It has helped me enough. One thing I learned from Mahi bhai (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) is that you always put your team ahead, see the scoreboard and play accordingly. That has helped me throughout,” Pandya revealed.
Pandya created a record when he smashed Malinda Pushpakumara for 26 runs in an over. The right-hander said “it just happened”.
“It just happened, honestly. I didn’t want to go all over but don’t know what happened. May be I was connecting pretty well, so I thought ‘let me try’ and I scored 26 runs. It obviously feels good,” he said.
“From there I saw the scoreboard and I was batting on 80 and I was like, wow! Then I noticed I was in the zone, I don’t usually look at the scoreboard. I don’t want to know what’s happening around. I just focus on how I can help the innings progress.”
When he was batting, nine wickets were already down and Pandya said it was all about taking “calculative risks”.
“Nine wickets were already down and I knew, if I stay in the crease and connect the ball well, it would go for six. Even if I were to miss hit, I had to. I had no choice. It was an ideal opportunity and obviously there was a team’s goal and which was to reach 400-run target and we scored close to 490.
“When me and Wriddhi (Wriddhiman Saha) went in, we played normally. Once he got out, still Kuldeep (Yadav) was there, and I could take singles with him. Even Shami and Umesh can bat, but you also know that when you have one wicket left, you play a different game; when you have three wickets, you play differently. I just batted according to the situation.”
It is turning out to be a dream debut Test series for Pandya as he has already scored a fifty in his first outing with the bat and has been handy with the ball too.
“God has been pretty kind to me. I am pretty lucky I got things pretty quickly in life. I am just happy. I have worked hard enough and I am getting whatever I have worked hard for. Test cricket is not easy.
“I am pretty lucky to have such team and such people who are supporting me and backing me all out, and showing the confidence. They have given me all the freedom to play the way I can and that’s the best thing to have happened,” he said.
Pandya has been a regular member in India’s limited-overs squads but he had to wait for the Test call.
“Whenever a kid starts playing in India, he doesn’t think of one-day cricket. Test cricket is always the goal. I am not sure about now, but when I was little I always wanted to play Test cricket. The name is Test because it is a difficult format; it tests your patience, fitness, temperament, etc.”
As far as his bowling was concerned, Pandya said, “In Test cricket, you need to be disciplined and keep bowling in one place, and eventually the wicket is going to do something. In Ranji Trophy you might get helpful wickets where you get a five-wicket haul in 10 overs as well. But in Test cricket it is different.
“You need to make sure you bowled disciplined lines and play on the patience of the batsmen. One ball might do something, and you get a wicket.”
(With PTI inputs)