It has been a difficult few months for the Baroda all-rounder. A misogynistic and ill-advised appearance on TV show ‘Koffee with Karan’ set in motion a string of events which for a while put his participation in the World Cup in severe doubt, which till then was an iron-clad certainty. Pandya along with KL Rahul were suspended pending an enquiry and missed five international games in Australia and New Zealand after a much-publicized spat between the Committee of Administrators (CoA) members Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji, with the matter getting discussed in front of Supreme Court judges as well.
Although the suspension was lifted, the matter is not behind them as the newly-appointed BCCI Ombudsman DK Jain has summoned Pandya and Rahul to appear before him on April 9 to put the matter to rest.
“The injury happened and then the controversy too. These seven months weren’t easy and I wasn’t sure of what to do. This award (man-of-the-match) is special and I dedicate it to all those who stood by me during those tough times. My goal is to keep performing and hopefully, help India win the World Cup,” Pandya said after the game on Wednesday.
Pandya returned to the field against New Zealand in the ODI earlier this year but was subsequently forced to miss out of the Australia series at home after a recurrence of the back injury.
“It feels really good to help the team win and to contribute to it. It's been seven months since I played much competitive cricket. Have batted and batted and batted in the nets. I am someone who loves to have game time and I am hitting them really well at the moment,” 25-year-old said.
After a slow start in the opening game of the season against the Delhi Capitals, Pandya found his groove against Royal Challengers with the bat, scoring a 14-ball 32.
“He (Pandya) was out for a bit and didn’t play a lot of games. So, he needs time to get into the groove. He is a crucial member of the team and very flexible. His form is very important to us, which will do good for us,” Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma said about Pandya after the RCB game.
“...obviously there was a hunger out there to go and do well. He came out and got those crucial runs in the end. He also bowled well in the middle even though he went for few runs. It was a much-improved performance from last game. He is also stepping up that ladder,” he said.
Since that knock, Pandya has maintained a strike-rate of 204 this season, above and beyond his career strike-rate of 144.16 in IPL matches. Even his opponents are fans of his ability like Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming.
“I am a massive fan (of Pandya), I think he is a wonderful player. His confidence is up, looks like he has a good thing going with what he is doing at the death. Plans should be now for teams to combat that. We were happy with what we were trying to do but executed it poorly.
“He is a quality player. I think he is one of Mumbai’s key weapons and one of India’s key players going forward. If you keep him out of the game you often go on to win. But today with both bat and ball he was excellent,” said the former New Zealand captain.
Going forward if Pandya could keep fit and remain mentally focused for the next three months, India could have the all-round match-winner India will need throughout the World Cup campaign. The term X-factor is loosely used for a lot of cricketers these days but Pandya on his day is definitely one. As he showed for the Mumbai Indians on this heady night at the Wankhede.
First Published: April 4, 2019, 12:09 PM IST