He is the man of the moment, having contributed a 37-ball 40 in a century stand with Virat Kohli in a nerve-wracking chase, besides finding the perfect length for the surface and taking three Pakistani wickets.
Responding to a question by TOI on how his approach and preparation for such high-pressure contests had changed over time, and how he managed to stay so relaxed on the big occasion, Pandya was candid. “You become the hero in these games only. I’ve always enjoyed (performing under pressure).
“I don’t want to perform in a dead-rubber game where my team is already cruising and I come and score 80. That’s not what I like. I like to score those 40s and 50s at crucial times, when my team needs them the most. Also, I got the fear of failure out. I don’t bother (about) what’s going to happen…is the result going to be what people are going to talk about? I respect everyone’s opinion but I don’t think about outcomes.”
So what if India had ended one run short against Pakistan? Would he still be the same after the game, he was asked. “I said it, even (with) three balls left I told the boys, even if we lose it, it’s okay, we have fought in this game,” Hardik said.
“As a team we have worked very hard… individually, collectively. Even if we had lost I would still have a smile on my face. We gave everything. Somewhere down the line I’ve accepted the fact that this sport will give me ups and downs. The more ups I have, good (sic). Even if downs are there, I will cherish those moments as well because failure teaches you a lot of things.”
Pandya was in awe of Virat Kohli’s twin sixes off Haris Rauf in the 19th over, especially the first one, a straight six off a short of length ball.
“I’m someone who is very calm inside, but I was shouting. It meant a lot. It was one of two crucial shots for us. If in those two balls we had got even one six less, we would have had to bat out of our skin in the last over. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed.”