His entry into Indian Premier League created quite a buzz but the burly Kashmiri all-rounder known for hitting monster sixes, wants his bat to do the talking.
“Enough of interviews, I am focusing on IPL now. Its cricket and only cricket,” a beaming Manzoor Dar aka Pandav who will turn out for Kings Eleven Punjab in the upcoming IPL edition, told News 18.
Pandav wants the euphoria over his selection to get over. Hundreds of supporters sang and danced outside his home in Sumbal village when his name went under the hammer in an auction beamed live on television.
The stocky cricketer is aware he has to 'perform or perish' in the big ticket league rather than find mention in newspaper spaces and TV chunks. For that he has set himself a punishing schedule to get leaner and stronger.
“I spend more time on fitness in the gym, run a lot and exercise to add muscle to my limbs. This way I will generate more power to hit longer and add a yard to my pace,” he says.
The 100 metre sixer man as he is called, is thrilled to share dressing room with the likes of Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle, David Miller, R Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh and coach Virender Sehwag.
“I have played against Yuvi paaji and other Indian players before but it would be great to see overseas players in action. I can't tell you how excited I am.”
Pandav wants to model himself on Kapil Dev, his all-time favourite. He is stunned though by the stroke making abilities of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.
“Dhoni hits sixes to balls bowled at his toe. I don't know how he hits big sixes from difficult positions and Kohli is simply a magician,” he says.
“My best cricket memory is Yuvi paaji hitting six sixes in an over. That happens once in decades.”
It is not just cricket where he is making corrections but he feels an image makeover is happening wittingly or unwittingly.
He admits his bats and accessories are now better than before. He recalls when he started to play cricket, he used ordinary bats costing few hundred but now 'sponsors gift him costly and best of grainy English willow.'
“I used to play in rubber shoes and walk in chappals and now thanks to Almighty I wear branded shoes, trousers and jerseys. Cricket is changing my lifestyle,” he says candidly.
The other day, he says, his friends literally 'kidnapped' him literally and forced him to shop in branded stores in Jammu.
“They even carried me to a saloon for a haircut,” he informs, sounding embarrassed.
“I am a village bloke, a simpleton let me be only that. I kept telling them but they won't listen,” he confides.
“Friends have always helped me with money and cricket kits when I was struggling. And coaches like Arshad Shawl have held my hand.”
In his struggling days, Pandav had to take multiple jobs to run the show for his 10-member family including seven siblings, ailing parents and an uncle. The family puts up in an under constructed house in Sumbal area of Bandipore village.
“Last week when I called my mother to give her the good news, she cried like a baby. She told me Allah has rewarded your hard work,” he says, adding it is a fairy tale twist to the initial hardships he and his family faced.
Only few years back Pandav used to get 60 rupees a night for guarding an automobile showroom near Srinagar. In the morning, he would cycle 30 kilometres daily to turn up at cricket stadium for practice.
And now that you have got 20 lakh at the auction where will you spend the money?
“I am thankful to Preity Ma'am for picking me in the squad. I want to do three things first and rest can wait.”
“Take my mother - who is not keeping well - to a good hospital, spend on the education of my three sisters and repair the house. I want to fix the windows first. In winters, the house won't keep warm,” he says.