New Delhi: The name Hardik Pandya rings in your brain but you find it hard to put a face on it. But soon, this 22-year-old all-rounder from Baroda could prove to be a possible end to India's long search for a pace bowling all-rounder as the national selectors named him in the ODI squad for the upcoming Australian tour.
"I am definitely eyeing the all-rounder’s position in the team. With my decent pace and batting abilities, I can be the perfect No. 7 that India are looking for. That is the reason why I insisted on becoming an all-rounder, rather than a batsman who can bowl a bit," Pandya told the bcci.tv.
The Baroda lad was first noticed during this year's Indian Premier League (IPL). Representing the star-studded Mumbai Indians, Pandya played a couple of game-changing cameos with bat and provided a couple of crucial wickets with the ball to set himself apart.
"Before the IPL no one knew who Hardik Pandya was," he said.
"I said after the final that the IPL will change my life, and it has.
"Why I give a lot of credit to IPL is because its concept is simply amazing for young Indian players. It is not every day that you meet Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag. If it wasn’t for the IPL, I would never have met Ricky Ponting, let alone have this wonderful relationship with him. It teaches you so much about your game and about yourself.
"As a person I do not take too much pressure, but still, playing in tight games in the IPL, you watch how some of the established greats handle pressure and react to it, and you learn from that," Pandya added.
He is just 22 years old and hence a bit unrestricted and too far sighted in his views. That, however, also shows that he is passionate and confident.
"My goal was to make it to the Indian team. Now that I have, I can’t wait to make my international debut.
"I am confident of playing my first game for India in the Australia series and doing well. If I manage that, I will stand a very good chance of getting selected for the World Twenty20 next year. That is my next goal.
"The pitches there suit my style of cricket. I would enjoy bowling on the hard, quick pitches and the good length that I bowl will cause problems for batsmen. I will also enjoy batting there because the ball comes on nicely and I am good at facing short balls too," Pandya said.
He said that he would seek Ponting's help in his preparation for the Australian tour. "I am regularly in touch with Ricky and now that I am going to Australia, I will call him up and ask him how I should prepare for those conditions and pitches. A few people are not sure if he will help me out in this regard, but I know he won’t say no to me. I know he will be there to help me in whichever way he can."
The most famous cricketers to have come out of Baroda, Irfan Pathan, had a big influence on Pandya. Since Irfan is also an all-rounder, Pandya said he learnt a lot from watching him train.
"Irfan Pathan was a big influence in my development as an all-rounder. He encouraged me to focus equally on batting and bowling and I followed his lead in the way he trained and worked out. If he did core exercises in the gym, I would do the same," he said.