IPL2020: Kung-Fu Pandya eager to make up for lost time
Hardik was stretchered out due to back spasm during the Asia Cup match against Pakistan a couple years ago in Dubai
The last time Hardik Pandya was here in the UAE, the outing turned out to be one to forget.
Two years since that Asia Cup, where a back spasm cut short his sojourn, the all-rounder is eager to banish those memories and come back firing on all cylinders.
And by a strange coincidence, exactly two years to the day when Pandya suffered that injury, he will be going full tilt when the Mumbai Indians take on the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL opener at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
On that muggy Wednesday afternoon at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 19, Pandya collapsed on his follow-through after bowling the fifth ball of his fifth over to Pakistan's Babar Azam. He lay writhing in pain before being stretchered off by the on-site paramedics.
The hectic work schedule had finally taken its toll as Pandya had played 44 games across all formats over those 12 months. Only Rohit Sharma had played more (46).
Back injuries have had a strange love affair with Pandya as he went under the knife last November in London. Following that surgery, the 26-year-old returned from the lay-off by taking part in the DY Patil T20 tournament in Mumbai.
And having spent the lockdown in India, training with his brother Krunal, Pandya believes that great things lay in store.
"No matter how far I go from the game, no matter how long I stay out, when I come back, it has to be worth it," said Pandya.
"I've prepared pretty well and I think great things are coming ahead," he added.
Pandya, who has featured in 54 ODIs, 40 T20Is apart from 11 Tests, has accepted the fact that injuries will always be part of a sportsperson and said that makes him strive even harder.
"In my life, I've realised one thing that injuries would be with me. No one wants to get injured but I accept the fact that what I do, injuries will be a part," he said.
"Injuries have always kept me going, always kept me motivated, actually taught me how much I have to put in the hard yards, and the hard work has always increased, never decreased," Pandya added.
Pandya, who ushered in a baby boy with his better half Natasa Stankovic in July, felt that he is in a good mental space at the moment and said that it was just a matter of time before he hit his stride.
"The way I'm hitting the ball right now and the shape I'm in, the mental space I'm in, it's just a matter of time that I go and spend some time on the ground and I think things will come out pretty well," said Pandya, whose return to international cricket was supposed to be the ODIs against South Africa. But that series was abandoned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Strangely enough, Rohit Sharma, who captained in that Asia Cup, is his skipper at the Mumbai Indians and Pandya is looking forward to making a lasting impression on his comeback trail.
"IPL is something which I have always enjoyed a lot and I would like to make a comeback very strong and I'm just looking forward to it," said Pandya, whose last ODI was the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand at Manchester last July, while is previous T20I was against South Africa at Bengaluru, last September.
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