AS the interview with Hardik Pandya was wrapping up, his driver couldn’t stop raving about the last over he bowled which enabled India to beat Bangladesh in the crucial World T20 league game where the hosts snatched a win from the jaws of defeat. Pandya calls it a ‘miracle day’.
Over the last few months, the Baroda all-rounder has shown a spark which MS Dhoni was looking for in an all-rounder: a good fielder, a decent bowler and a batter who can hit big. In a chat with The Indian Express, Pandya talks about the Bangladesh game, India’s exit and what he learnt from Virat Kohli. EXCERPTS:
Is the last over against Bangladesh still fresh in your mind?
If you remember I was laughing before the over started. I was speaking to the umpire, who told me ‘good luck’. I told him ‘look, after this over either I will be the hero or I will be the talking point for people who want to talk.’ We were planning for each ball, on what to bowl and what not to. After those two boundaries, they needed two runs in three balls. The game was over there, but how we came back was a miracle. I doubt such things will happen again.
Can you rewind to what happened?
We knew that Mahmudullah could hit the ball far, so there was no point bowling him a length ball. We decided to bowl him a wide yorker. First ball went like we had planned. Second ball was also planned but it went for a four. We wanted Rahim to try to go for a glory shot and get out. That’s why all three balls I bowled were length balls. We wanted to go close, we knew that 99 per cent they are winning and we have a chance of only 1 per cent. After two fours, Rahim committed the mistake but I thought it was late.
Did you know you were bowling the last over?
I knew that I was going to bowl the last over. I could make out because I, Ashu bhai (Nehra) and Bumrah had one over left each. 11 runs is not that big in the last over but still it had some cushion.
How much of an impact did having Dhoni and Nehra in the side have?
Dhoni bhai has too much of experience, he is very calm and he understands situations very well. When I was hit for two fours he came and said, don’t take stress, bindaas daal. Ashu bhai has been a father figure for me and for the team. He has been a great influence on me, he will straight away say what is good for me and what is not good. He bowls the first over so he will give his feedback to everyone accordingly. He will come and say this wicket is gripping so I should try to bowl slower one. His understanding of the pitches is impeccable.
How did you celebrate the success after beating Bangladesh?
I didn’t even wait for the decision when Mahi bhai hit the stumps, I knew we had won. I was not celebrating with the team I was running a whole round and even went to the Bangladesh dug-out because they had celebrated before the game ended.
How will you sum up the West Indies game?
They outplayed us. Personally, I don’t like talking about luck but in that game luck was just not in our favour. Two no balls, catches, some of the balls top edged which could have been caught any other day. It was not our day, as a team we did everything right possible. In bowling we tried things but it didn’t click.
You kept bowling short of length to West Indies despite knowing they are good hitters?
I was trying to do things, but it didn’t click. Before I got hit, I had bowled two dot balls. Things didn’t pay off, but it’s fine. It’s okay.
What was mood in the dressing room?
We were not happy, we were hurt to lose out in semis. WC is something very big. We all know that West Indies is a side which can get out in 100 or they can chase a score of 250 runs as well. I kept thinking about what went wrong, but it’s important to move on.
Are you happy with the way you have secured your place as all-rounder in a short span?
People have seen glimpses of my batting. I tell myself that I am an all-rounder, I don’t want to call myself a bowling all-rounder or batting all-rounder. People have not seen my batting, but they will see it in future. Against Bangladesh when I batted with Rohit in Asia Cup, I got the belief that I can change my game at the international stage. I had changed my game in domestic competitions and even in IPL.
Who is the person whom you learnt a lot from?
I learnt a lot from Virat. His work ethic is remarkable and that is why he is such a good cricketer. He got success because of hard work. He told me once that if I keep working hard, things will fall in place. He prepares himself in the nets as if he is playing in the match. He gives his extra effort in the gym, he gives his best during fielding. He is fittest guy in world cricket. I want to get consistent like him (Virat).
How is your family coping with all this limelight?
I might get busy, I will not reply as I used too. My family are actually on cloud nine. In very short time, I’ve got so much love from my people. I get mobbed these days. It is not easy to go out of the house now. Things have changed for good. I have three tattoos: time is everything, believe and never give up. It is about my life.
IPL’s round the corner. How are you looking at this season, when you will no longer be just an ordinary domestic player?
It is the big stage for any upcoming cricketer. IPL gives a platform and with professional cricketers playing it has helped. I want to contribute more for my team, want to win more games for Mumbai Indians.