Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore the fact that India all-rounder Hardik Pandya is one of the most selfless cricketers in the circuit today. It isn't easy for a sportsperson to take the call of going under the knife. But then, for Hardik, there was no other solution as delaying the inevitable could have seen his team miss his services in the all-important World T20 slated to be held in less than an year in Australia. As he undergoes rehabilitation after a successful back surgery, Hardik wants to stay mentally healthy and patient as he feels cricket is in his blood and won't take him long to put on his A-game on the pitch.
Speaking to IANS, Hardik gives an insight into the thought that saw him deciding to go under the knife, the road to recovery as it looks him in the face, the World T20 that awaits and more importantly, the need to stay patient even as he itches to bat and bowl every single day.
"I was managing the back, tried everything possible not to get into surgery or anything. After trying everything, we came to the conclusion that it wasn't working. I noticed that I was not able to give my 100 per cent and that meant I was not doing justice to myself and the team. That is when I decided to go for the surgery.
"To be honest, right now I feel very good. We are working very properly. After surgery it is not easy, so we are trying to ensure that we cover all the areas. But everything said and done, injuries aren't something you can control. I have noticed this after playing for 4-5 years that even if I don't wish to get injured and take the necessary precautions, injuries is something which is a part and parcel of a sportsperson's life. You cannot say I will not get injured and have to take it how it comes. So right now, I am trying to come back strong," he smiled.
Asked if he is grateful that he didn't delay the surgery as that could have seen him miss the flight to Australia, Hardik said: "100 per cent! We decided to do the surgery now because we saw the future and thought this is the right time. I could have done the surgery a month later, but it would not have helped me in any way. I was feeling the difference in my back and wasn't able to take it.
"We thought this was the right time because even if I take four months, I will be coming back before the New Zealand series, mid-way actually. That was the plan that I play some international games, the IPL and then the World T20. The biggest concern was the World T20 which touch wood is now in place."
This is not the first time that Hardik is looking to make a comeback from injury, but for the all-rounder, it is about never giving up as he looks to stay mentally healthy in this phase.
"It might sound cool, but it is not easy to keep coming back as you need motivation. Yes, we all have motivation, but you need to be sure that you do not go down the wrong path. You don't question yourself and why is it happening to you. I try and back myself and stay positive. I have understood that every comeback gives me an edge and makes me stronger. I want people to say I learnt something when I was away due to injury.
"Physically I can always come back, but mentally it is important to stay healthy. And to be honest, a lot of things have happened in my life and I have become much stronger mentally," he explained.
He once again reiterates that it is important not to rush back as has been the case with many in the past. Hardik says he has taken inspiration from the likes of Pat Cummins and teammate Jasprit Bumrah.
"It is very important that you don't rush. If your body is not ready and force yourself to come back right now, without being prepared, you might break down again. So that is the thing why people call for patience. Injuries are not easy, but being patient is important. I have seen Pat Cummins coming back from injury being stronger than before. I have seen Jasprit Bumrah having a knee surgery and coming back and be what he is right now.
"I have seen cricketers come back from bad injuries and surgeries and I have spoken to them and learnt that patience is very important. After a knife touches your body, it becomes fragile. So, you have to give 200 per cent while making the return," he smiled.
The goal is to take baby steps back to the international stage for the cricketer. "Just going step by step. Right now haven't started bowling or any cricket-specific activity. We are following all the routines and touch wood everything is going as per plan. I am sure that I will make a strong comeback. We have to be a little careful and go with the flow, seeing the body and then take a call on coming back. Once we start cricket, it won't take much time. Just need to be ready for the international standard," he said.
Asked if he fears that it might be difficult to remain as effective as he was before the injury breakdown, the swag is back with a bang.
"I don't think I will be the same player, I might be a better cricketer when I come back. That is my theory and the important part will be to come strongly because everything now comes down to the body because cricket-skills wise I have been playing since when I was 14, so, cricket you don't forget. Making a comeback from the injury is what is important," he smiled.
But his madness has the method as he goes on to explain.
"Cricketing part I can improve by working for months. I am only focused on my body. You must have seen with Virat Kohli as well. He is the biggest example because the way he trains and the way he is, a fit Virat is always a better Virat than he was. That is a motivation.
"I want to win the World T20 and that is the plan. Have come close to it many times -- the Champions Trophy in 2017 and sadly missed the 2019 World Cup. Our game might suit Australia. I wish to help the team get the trophy," he signed off.