New Delhi, Jun 11 (IANS): After leading Gujarat Titans to the IPL title in their maiden season and making his India comeback, all-rounder Hardik Pandya has revealed that it was more about the battles he won against himself, adding that he has put in the hard yards and made quite a few sacrifices to make his return to the cricket.
Hardik did not play competitive cricket after the T20 World Cup in 2021 until IPL 2022 as he was recovering from persistent back injuries. There were questions asked about his lengthy stint on the sidelines after he had not bowled in the IPL for Mumbai Indians in 2021 and 2020. He also bowled sporadically for India at the highest over the last 2 years.
However, the all-rounder was focussed on working hard to make a strong comeback. According to him, during his time away from competitive action he would hit the bed at 2130 hrs and wake up at 0500 hrs to train.
The 29-year-old followed this timetable for four months, after which he guided an unfancied Gujarat Titans to a memorable title triumph in only their maiden IPL outing. He not only led from the front with the bat, scoring 484 runs but he also chipped in with the ball, alleviating concerns over his bowling form
Soon after that, he made his long-awaited international comeback and looked pretty much like his old self, hitting an unbeaten 31 off just 12 balls against South Africa in the first T20I on Thursday.
"I was happy. It was more about the battles I won against my own self and a lot of other things as well. Winning the IPL, or even qualifying (for the playoffs) was a big deal for me because a lot of people doubted us," Hardik told BCCI.tv.
"A lot of people frowned at us before we started. A lot of people raised a lot of questions. A lot of things were said about me even before I made a comeback. But it was never about giving them answers. I'm just proud of the process I followed. No one knows what I went through the six months that I was off. I've gotten up at 5 in the morning to make sure I train. I slept at 9:30 in the night for four months, so (there was) a lot of sacrifice.
"It was the battle I fought before the IPL. I have always worked hard in my life, and it has always given me the result I wanted," he added.
The star cricketer also said the ongoing series against South Africa was the ideal platform for him to get into the groove for the upcoming T20 World Cup, especially since India will look to him to finish an innings, not start one like he did at Titans.
"Every series or every game you play is as important as your last.So, for me, World Cup is the goal, this is the right platform to get into the rhythm and a lot of cricket is going to come back-to-back. Always being in the rhythm is very important," Hardik said.
"My role will be changed here, I won't be captain, I won't be batting higher up the order and guiding through the innings. This will be back to being the Hardik for which I am known," he added.