The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is less than three weeks away and while the coronavirus pandemic has time and again made headlines with a few cricketers testing positive recently in the UAE, Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya believes it is all about following the guidelines set by the professionals and focusing on enjoying the upcoming tournament rather than panicking. He also believes IPL will be a “stress relief” for fans as they will “get the satisfaction that something nice is happening.”
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— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) August 30, 2020
Speaking to ANI, Hardik threw light on life in the bio bubble, gearing up for cricketing action after a year-long break, working hard on his fitness to go one level up post-surgery, the joy IPL will bring to the fans.
“More excited than nervous because a good 10 months I have been training and looking forward to play so the portion where the nervousness comes or the pressure comes has gone away,” Hardik told ANI.
“I am just more excited to be on the field and implement what I have worked on with regards to my training part, the practice sessions,” he added.
“Luckily we made a gym in the house and due to COVID-19 we weren’t allowed to go out of the house so we focused and realised a lot of things that we can improve more. Because of all that hard work and preparation and thought process, it is just that I am very excited to implement what I have worked on,” Hardik explained.
As an all-rounder, the workload is automatically higher and Hardik also underwent surgery on his back. So has that meant falling down on the fitness chart slightly? Hardik believes otherwise.
“To be honest, I look after my back now as well. But it is just that if I was 7/10 fit before, now with the back surgery and all, if I want to be same or better than before, I had to increase my fitness one level,” Hardik said.
“Throughout the Covid period and even before that, I was focusing to ensure that if without surgery I was at a level with my fitness, I had to be one level up.
“I know one thing that if you are fit, then things turn out pretty well. The focus was always to get one level up. Like you said, I need to do two things, so I keep that in mind. The trainers and all have helped me big time. Luckily I have got the right people in my life who have guided me pretty well,” he added.
So has he contemplated picking one format over another considering the workload of an international cricketer?
“It is completely dependent on how my body reacts. I have not decided anything and right now the number of months I have been out, I just want to keep playing sport as much as I can,” Hardik said.
“But obviously there are my physios and trainers to take that call. Whichever opportunity I get, I will go out and play,” he added.
Has the lockdown in fact helped extend a few careers? Hardik feels it is an individual thing and one cannot generalise.
“If you ask me, I really don’t know how to put it. I have been out of the game for almost a year. So for me, just the lockdown helped us to realise a lot of things from understanding what are the goals and you know…more mature thoughts,” Hardik quipped.
“I am assuming lots of cricketers would have also got time to fix their bodies just like I was looking after my body. All must be now eyeing to go back to the field and finally play because when we had our first practice session a few days back, it just felt so good. Batting, bowling, catching the ball,” he said.
But then, has there been a sense of scare after a few members of the Chennai Super Kings unit tested positive? Hardik feels every player should just stick to the basics.
“For me it is just simple. Follow what the health officials say and follow what the team management says. I let the professionals do their work and if they say that we should look after certain things, I think we should just follow that and be on track,” Hardik said.
“I realised one thing during this seven days of isolation that we have all been working hard for a long time. But one person can ruin everyone’s hard work over the last 3-4 months. So, we are only focusing on cricket right now because MI is taking care of the rest,” he added.
But what about the empty stands? “It will be a different experience, but we have all played Ranji Trophy without fans and T20 cricket without fans,” Hardik said.
“For me, I don’t think much will be different as we have played in the past without fans. Me and my brother (Krunal Pandya) were talking during the COVID time and we were discussing that for the fans, the IPL will be a cherry because no one has seen cricket for a while and people have been in difficult times.
“So this will be a stress relief for everyone as they will sit at 8 pm and watch the IPL for two months. So, everyone will get that satisfaction that something nice is happening. The fans will enjoy it,” he explained.
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