T20 World Cup 2024 – India – Hardik Pandya turns to 16-year-old self to get out of ‘difficult phase’ in career

It has been a tough few days in the life of Hardik Pandya, and he acknowledges it. But he won’t “run away from it” and will “keep working hard – hard work never goes to waste – and keep smiling”.

“Eventually, I believe, you have to stay in the battle. Sometimes life puts you in situations where things are tough, but I believe that if you leave the game or the field, the battle that is, you won’t get what you want from your sport, or the results you are looking for,” Hardik said ahead of the T20 World Cup in an interview with Star Sports. “So, yeah, it has been difficult, but at the same time, I have been process-driven, I have tried to follow the same routines I used to follow earlier.

“At the same time these things happen; there are good times and bad times, these are phases that come and go. That is fine. I have gone through these phases many times and I will come out of it as well.”

It all looked rosy for Hardik till IPL 2024 started. After that, as the new Mumbai Indians (MI) captain, he oversaw a last-place finish for his team. His returns with bat (216 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 143.04 and average of 18.00) and ball (11 wickets in 12 innings at an economy rate of 10.75) were mediocre. It appeared that he had offended the fans at both MI – where he had replaced a popular and well-loved captain, Rohit Sharma – and Gujarat Titans, his previous team, who he had guided to a title win and a second-place finish in his two years at the helm. For large parts of the IPL, he was booed at stadiums, even at neutral ones.

Now he is at the T20 World Cup. As India’s vice-captain, deputy to Rohit. And as India’s premier fast-bowling allrounder.

“I don’t take my successes too seriously. Whatever I have done well, I have forgotten about them immediately and moved forward. Same with difficult times,” he said. “I don’t run away from it. I face everything with [my] chin up.

“As they say, this too shall pass. So coming out [of these phases] is simple: just play the sport, accept that [you need to] maybe get better at your skillset, keep working hard – hard work never goes to waste – and keep smiling.”

Along with the hard work, Hardik stressed on the importance of going back to a point in time when things weren’t as good for him as they are now, when he had to fight for opportunities, a period that perhaps shaped him.

“I am in that zone right now [where] I am going and asking the 16-year-old [self] – because he is my actual motivator, because if that guy hadn’t set the platform I probably wouldn’t have been here”

Hardik Pandya

“I think it comes down to self-belief,” he said. “I believe a lot in hard work. You can succeed only if you put in the effort for it. I want to give myself the opportunity to… why do I prepare and commit myself every time? The only reason is that while I am not guaranteed success, I am guaranteed an opportunity to be successful. I focus simply on how do I keep getting better. Speak to myself. Try to know my real version.

“Hardik Pandya right now at 30 is a much, much easier job compared to what Hardik Pandya was when I was 16. So I go back to the 16-year-old and I ask him how did you do it, why did you do it?

“At that point of time, I didn’t have facilities or opportunities. Hard work gave me opportunities and opened doors for me. So I am in that zone right now [where] I am going and asking the 16-year-old – because he is my actual motivator, because if that guy hadn’t set the platform I probably wouldn’t have been here.”

India played Bangladesh in their only warm-up game ahead of the T20 World Cup today in New York on Saturday, and Hardik started his time in the USA well, with a 23-ball 40 not out and 1 for 30 in three overs. India’s first match at the main tournament is on June 5, against Ireland, also in New York.

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