All-rounder Hardik Pandya is relieved to back with India in international cricket after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
Pandya hasn't played Test, ODI or T20I cricket for since September 2019 after undergoing back surgery. He has been named in the squad for the ongoing ODI series against South Africa.
Thursday's first ODI at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala was washed out without a ball bowled. The second ODI will be played at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Sunday. India and South Africa are priced at 1.40 and 3.00, respectively by bet365 to win the second ODI.
“I missed this atmosphere in these past six months, playing for India and the feeling that you get wearing the team's colours. That had become mental challenge and there were a lot of setbacks,” Pandya told Chahal TV.
“I was trying to get back to full fitness quickly, but that did not work out and there was a lot of mental pressure at that time. But everything went fine, the rehabilitation went well and a lot of people helped me.”
Pandya hits two centuries
He recently returned to competitive cricket via the DY Patil T20 Cup and struck two centuries. One reached 158 off a mere 55 deliveries – and featured 20 sixes.
“I had not played a single game for six and a half months. I wanted to make an international comeback so it was very important for my confidence. No matter how much you practice the match situation is always different,” added Pandya.
“So I just kept on playing, my confidence kept improving and the sixes were coming of well. I though if they are coming off well, why should I stop and I keep going. But I never thought that I will hit 20 sixes in an innings.”
Pandya is vying for a berth in India‘s squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. They beat Pakistan in that final. India have been pooled with England, South Africa, Afghanistan and two qualifying teams for the 2020 T20 World Cup. India will host the 2021 T20 World Cup.