All-rounder Hardik Pandya is eyeing a comeback to international cricket during the New Zealand tour. India is set to tour New Zealand in January 2020.
Hardik underwent back surgery in October. As per the plan worked out with India’s team management, Hardik is expected to join the team midway into the New Zealand series. He shall then feature in the IPL and also be ready for the T20 World Cup down under.
Hardik has last been seen in India colours during the home T20I series against South Africa in September. That was his return to the team as he was rested right after the World Cup in England. The team management wanted him to focus on his strength training. However, Hardik complained of back trouble during the South Africa series. As a result, he eventually had to undergo surgery.
Hardik pointed out why he and the management felt delaying the surgery did not seem right. “We decided to do the surgery now because we saw the future and thought this is the right time,” IANS quoted Pandya as saying. “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.”
The back injury has troubled Hardik over the years
Hardik says that he has been carrying and ‘managing’ the injury for as long as 5 years. But the back pain was hindering his performance and he soon realised it. “I could have done the surgery a month later, but it would not have helped me in any way,” he said. “I was feeling the difference in my back and wasn’t able to take it.
“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.”
The back problem has troubled Hardik since the 2018 Asia Cup. It was the first time he complained of a stiff back. Ever since, the team management and the selectors have been monitoring and managing his workload.
Hardik says that long period of rehabilitation has been mentally difficult for him. “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.”
Being patient is the key
Staying patient is what Hardik is focusing on. He gave examples of pacers Pat Cummins and Jasprit Bumrah. They have also had to spend time away from the game to recover from serious injuries.
“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,” Pandya said. “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.”
However, Hardik has returned to training with Mumbai last week. He was yet to bat or bowl. But he has not ruled out featuring for Baroda in Ranji Trophy. The date of return is not specified however.
“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.”
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