New Delhi: Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya has already made a name for himself in international cricket. Since the retirement of World Cup winning skipper Kapil Dev, India missed the services of a medium-pace all-rounder for quite some time.
While the Baroda cricketer has lived up to the expectations to an extent, his transformation since the T20 World Cup 2016 is something which has been hailed by all. Pandya not only worked on his fitness, but also added more pace to his deliveries.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pandya said that he is following skipper Virat Kohli, who has taken his game to a different level with incredible work ethics and supreme fitness.
“I have changed some habits. I haven’t done anything specific to increase my speeds. As I said, I sleep early, eat quality food, sometimes boiled food, train well to get stronger and fitter. Virat Kohli has set a great example and I try to follow him,” Pandya said.
While Pandya was a known name in the Indian domestic circuit, the turning point of his career came during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015, where Mumbai Indians mentor Ricky Ponting turned him into a match-winner by dedicating plenty of time to him.
“Ricky was someone who from the start helped me. Someone like him, saying good things about you was amazing. He was always there for me during practice sessions, give throw-downs or talk. With him I was a different person, everything was new for me. Now I think I belong here,” said the 23-year-old.
Pandya also hailed Indian U-19 cricket coach Rahul Dravid for reviving his international career.
"After the World Cup (T20 World Cup, 2016), I slightly had a reality check like what are the things I should improve, the `A` tour of Australia was pretty important for me. I learnt a lot of things about my game there. As I mentioned, Rahul (Dravid) Sir helped me a lot by talking to me about my game as well as working on the mental aspects. There was Paras Sir (Mhambrey) as well who helped me with my bowling and my fitness," Pandya said.
Impressed with his improvement in the last few months, selectors named him as the captain of India A team which is currently playing a three-day warm-up match against Mumbai.
Ahead of the match, Pandya said it was an excellent opportunity for youngsters to impress selectors for upcoming four-match Test series against Steve Smith's men.
"It will be good opportunity for all of us, specially me to perform and get the opportunity to play in the Test series, it will be a good opportunity for the youngsters as well, who are there to show what they have," Hardik told reporters.
It remains to be seen whether he can make a place for himself in Indian Test squad.