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It's simple, I want to live life king size: Hardik Pandya

Facts about Krunal Pandya
Hardik and Krunal Pandya. (Photo Source: Hardik Pandya Facebook page.)

Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya have seen a dramatic surge in their career graphs in recent times. Hardik’s career has risen steeply; from being an uncapped debutant for the Mumbai Indians in last year’s IPL to making his India debut before the next season could even approach. Krunal, on the other hands, was injury ridden for the whole 2015 season but was picked by Mumbai Indians for a staggering amount Rs. 2 crores, raising many eyebrows.

Hardik’s heroics for the Mumbai Indians in 2015 brought him under the limelight. Hardik proved that his performances for the MI franchises didn’t came by fluke after he finished the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy, India’s premier domestic T20 championship as the highest run-getter.

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These stupendous shows later paved way for his T20I debut against Australia in January this year where he had an impressive time. His debut series was followed by home series in Sri Lanka and Asia Cup. Predictably, he was named in the World T20 squad and earned a great reputation for his brilliance and dedication in the field. For his brother, Krunal it would a golden chance to emulate the success of his younger sibling as this IPL season commences.

But, all this success have come after a long period of personal struggle for the Pandya brothers from Vadodara.

ESPN Cricinfo’s Arun Venugopal decided to meet up both the siblings to have a chat about their experiences so far.

Anyone who has followed Hardik would know that how lively the Vadodara lad is on the field. Everyone has seen a glimpse of his flamboyance and confidence, the way he bats, talks and carries himself speaks for it. Off the field, too, he’s a similar.  But, unluckily, his free flowing nature was misunderstood for brashness.

Hardik smiles, recalling his earliest struggle with his “attitude problem”. “I don’t fault anyone [for misconstruing my attitude as arrogance] because if a 16-year-old turns up after coloring his hair then logon ke aankhon mein toh dukhega [people’s eyes are going to hurt],” he says and chuckles.

“The reason I didn’t play a lot of junior cricket is because of this misconception about attitude. I don’t listen to everybody’s advice. That’s why I have got here,” he says, but he insists he has never been disrespectful or arrogant and that he only speaks his mind. “Had I ever been a fake-waala banda [a fake dude] I would have been more scared and concerned about what people think about me. I can’t worry about perceptions. Those who know me understand me.”

Hardik who made his debut at the start of the 2016 also shared his dressing room experience

“”Jaan hoon mein logon ki. Ek dum laadla type ka.” [I am the darling of the team.]”

He says he has never once felt out of depth. “The guys enjoy watching what I do, and that’s only because I do what I do genuinely. I never knew Mahi bhai [MS Dhoni] talks so freely. During the Australia series [Jasprit] Bumrah, me and him spent a lot of time talking about every possible topic.”

Hardik Pandya is has grabbed everyone’s attention with his animated celebrations and lively character. When asked if he was doing it for the cameras, he says if he were merely showing off, people would have seen through it.

“If I act smart, my team-mates, who have much more experience, are much smarter. It won’t take them long to spot a fake when they see one. Cricket teaches people to spot even the minutest things. I, too, have the gift of judging people quickly.”

He describes himself as a self loving personality who likes to live his life ‘King size.’

“Main khud ko bahut pyaar karta hoon [I love myself a lot]. You could call it self-obsessed or self-respect, but the bottom line is, I like everything about myself,” he says.

“I work very hard and have just as much fun. I indulge all my extravagances: I like splurging on expensive clothes, watches and sunglasses. Kabhi galat kaam kar ke nahin jeena hai, lekin jeena hai style mein. King-size. Simple funda” [I want to live life king-size but not with ill-gotten gains. It’s as simple as that].

“But I want everybody to progress and have a good life. I can’t wish bad things for people, I am not made that way. That’s perhaps why God has helped me rise as quickly as I have.”

While success and fame has brought money in abundance for him. HE asserts that he has always taken care of the fact that it doesn’t spoil his relationship with the ones who stood for him when he was a nobody.

“When I started out, I borrowed a couple of bats from Irfan [Pathan] bhai before a domestic match. He immediately sent word to RNS to have kits dispatched to me. So my respect for the company grew. They supported me when I was a nobody. Now when I am doing well why should I jump ship? Look, I know I will make money with my cricket, and even endorsements – I am stylish and I can carry myself well.

“There was a time when I had to make do with Rs 100 for days together. Now, even if I play for one more year, I know I will make enough money to buy a [Audi] Q7, so money is not going to go away anywhere, but my relationships with people matter a lot. I still need to achieve a lot. more as a cricketer, and if I take care of that, everything else will fall in place. I haven’t achieved anything yet.”

His brother Krunal, who is two years elder to him, also recalled his early cricketing days when his cricket loving father Himanshu relocated his well-settled business just to make it easier for his kids to concentrate on the game. His father shifted from Surat to Vadodara when Krunal was just 6 years old.

“Woh hi badi baat hai [that was a huge thing],” Krunal says. “What is amazing is how my father left behind a settled business for a six-year-old boy. It wasn’t as if I was on the verge of playing in the Ranji Trophy.” He also recalls being ferried to and from the ground every afternoon for three and a half years by his father, who had to ride his bike upwards of 50 kilometres both ways. Krunal’s kitbag would be squeezed in the front while he would be fast asleep, clutching his father during the half-hour ride.

Hardik had not even started playing when Krunal was already learning how to face the leather ball in the nets at the Kiran More academy.

Like in Krunal’s case, the turning pointing in Hardik’s life came when he was six. “Woh ground pe aise hi masti kar raha tha [he was just having fun at the ground] when Kiran sir saw him and asked Hardik to report to practice from the next day,” Krunal says.

Krunal says there has never been any competition between him and Hardik, but admits to having sibling fights all the time. “If a stranger sees us fight he would be absolutely convinced we are sworn enemies,” Krunal says with a laugh. “We fight every day over little things, but all it takes is two minutes for us to patch up.

“After Hardik was selected for the national side he playfully taunted me by asking how it felt to be the brother of an Indian cricketer. After the IPL auction this year I responded by asking him how it felt to be the brother of a billionaire cricketer,” he laughs. “But we can’t live without each other. Whenever he does well I am happier than he is and vice-versa.”

However, life wasn’t rosy for the brother. Life became tough after his father, who was diabetic, was developed serious health problems which brought financial difficulties in the family. But by 2010-11, Himanshu, a diabetic, suffered three heart attacks in two years.

‘Come on, they own a car. How can they be struggling?'” Krunal says. “What people didn’t know was, we would fill up petrol for Rs 150 and get by. Whenever the car ran dry, we would just about make enough money to buy a bottle of petrol. But we never told anyone this. We didn’t want to gain sympathy. We value our izzat [self-respect] a lot.”

The free spirited nature both the brothers have comes from their lovely parents. Their mother, Nalini, says there were relatives who disapproved of the liberty given to the sibling duo, but she knew that that’s the right way to raise children.

Krunal, himself has seen tough times in his career even before it could kick start properly.

The big-hitting all-rounder attracted scouts from Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils in 2014 but sustained a labral tear in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament last year which sidelined him from active cricket for a year.

“Rahul Sanghvi sir and Kiran More sir [Mumbai Indians scouts] and Pravin Amre sir [Delhi Daredevils scout] would call me regularly to get updates about my progress [after a shoulder surgery last year]. That two big franchises were following my growth and showing faith in me motivated me to get fit quickly.”

“We keep arguing, fighting among ourselves but never let one another down. We have never forced anything on them. When Hardik was more keen on cricket than studying, we never forced him to do otherwise.”

Himanshu admits to being staggered at times at the speed with which Hardik has progressed, and hopes for his boys to emulate the famous cricketing siblings from Vadodara – the Pathan brothers.

“I have never had to control him. He takes after me in regards to being aggressive,” he says. “I felt very happy when Shane Bond complimented him as ‘a good one’ and also when Ricky Ponting called him a rock star. My only desire is to see both the brothers play for India for a long time.”

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