Back to first-class cricket after a long physical issue cutback, Mumbai Indians’ Hardik Pandya says it is essential to appreciate the forthcoming IPL 2020 in UAE alongside the rules regardless of the impact of the continuous COVID pandemic.
“More excited than nervous because a good 10 months I have been training and looking forward to playing so the portion where the nervousness comes or the pressure comes has gone away. 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,” Hardik told ANI.
Only recently was there a scare with 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. I realised one thing during these 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.
“I feel we are in one of the best franchises which any player can be in. I know a lot of things have happened with other franchises, but the way MI has looked after us, the way they have followed the protocols, our testing started 20 days before we were even planning to fly. So, for us, we didn’t feel that scared as we had the MI management looking after that factor and we were only focusing on our game. Credit goes to MI for that,” he said.
“Back of the mind, we have to clear one thing out that we have to get back to cricket. Obviously follow the protocols and from the mind frame point of view, we have to get back and focus on the game. Lots of things will be going around, but as cricketers, we will have to focus on our sport because we are here to play and enjoy.”
Touching on the fact that the IPL will be played without fans, Hardik likened it to Ranji Trophy matches.
“It will be a different experience, but we have all played Ranji Trophy without fans and T20 cricket without fans. So, for me, as a cricketer, the only thing we focus on when we go in is the ball, or the player, or whatever is happening with the XI players. Obviously the fans add to the cheering part and the support, but for us when we are playing, we don’t see much difference.
“For me, I don’t think much will be different as we have played in the past without fans. I and my brother 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.
Hardik, who had been out of action due to back injury, had a successful operation after the 2019 ODI World Cup says he has been working hard on his fitness and taking good care of his back as well.
“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 the same or better than before, I had to increase my fitness one level. 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. As 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 said.
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. But obviously there are my physios and trainers to take that call. Whichever opportunity I get, I will go out and play,” he said.