Chastened Pandya finds the right path

Chastened Pandya finds the right path

Hardik Pandya gave full view of his might in the game against Australia.

There is a chastening moment in every sportsman’s life that provides the right perspective and the missing purpose to one’s career.

It could be Virat Kohli’s self-pity stemming from his own chubby reflection in the mirror that set him on the path to becoming a fitness icon that he is now.  It maybe tennis great Andre Agassi, who tumbled to a humiliating world ranking of 144 after topping the charts. He was forced to play the low-rung Challengers to regain his stature. These are the moments that make or mar careers. The lesser mortals choose the easy way of slipping into oblivion while the determined ones pick the tough path to success.

Hardik Pandya, along with KL Rahul, endured this humbling experience following their cringe-worthy remarks on a TV chat show. They were shamed by suspensions in the middle of Australia tour and embarrassed by the all-round criticism. Pandya had just returned from a serious back injury after being sidelined for four more than months but the pain of public indignation at the height of his popularity must have been more excruciating for the Baroda player to handle. The 25-year-old, however, used this setback as a springboard to leap back on to the right track.

“In life, there are only two ways to deal with a situation like that,” Kohli had said just before Pandya returned from his suspension in January. “Either you hit rock-bottom or you can learn from the situation and see it as a motivation to make things right. For a cricketer, there is nothing dearer than the game. You put all your energy in the game; if you respect the game, the game will respect you back. There is no rocket science,” offered Kohli who knows a thing or two about losing one’s way.  

While there’s no denying that Pandya deserved what he got for the kinds of statements he made, it’s not easy to gather yourself from such debilitating situations. He was virtually out for seven months – first four months due to injury and then this TV chat show controversy. The all-rounder, though, has showed exemplary strength of character to emerge a stronger person and player. He set the Indian Premier League alight with his stunning hitting, standing out even with Andre Russell’s merciless massacre of the bowling attacks.

“That (chat show row) kind of made me feel that I should have a reality check on my life (about) what I am doing and which is helping me. Now my only focus is to play IPL and make sure India wins the World Cup. That is my sole purpose,” he had said during IPL.

Pandya accomplished one mission, helping Mumbai win their fourth title. Now, he is on to his second task of fulfilling his World Cup dream. The right-hander has set the right tone to the tournament with two innings of assurance that will have the rival teams on their toes. In Southampton against South Africa he came in with only formalities left in the chase but he still left his impression with three fours in quick succession to finish off the job. At the Oval against Australia, he made an even bigger impact with a bruising knock of 48 off 27 balls after being promoted to No 4.     

With an ability to chip in with five overs with his medium pace bowling even on his ordinary day with the ball and an inherent strength to ramp up the scoring rate, Pandya provides the perfect balance to both bowling and batting departments. In the past, comparisons with Kapil Dev and Ben Stokes have attracted sniggers and rightly so. There is, however, little doubt that he is like a rough diamond with potential for greatness.

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