The first ODI clash between the two heavyweights India and South Africa in Dharamsala on Thursday holds additional importance for all-rounder Hardik Pandya as it will be his first international match since September last year.
The 26-year-old was expected to make his comeback in the series against New Zealand but was withdrawn as his recovery was not complete. However, he proved his strength of characterin the DY Patil Cup where he knocked an unbeaten 55-ball-158, his innings included 20 sixes.
The all-rounder is also on the verge of claiming a major milestone in limited over cricket as Pandya is just 43 runs away from becoming the 13th Indian cricketer ever to achieve the double of 1000 runs and 50 wickets in the formet.
Hardik Pandya last featured in an ODI against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final and his last international match was a T20 against South Africa in September last year.
In an interview with teammate Yuzvendra Chahal which the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) posted on its official website, the all-rounder talked about the mental struggle of being on the sidelines.
“I missed this atmosphere the most in these last six months, playing for the country and the feeling you get wearing the team’s colours,” he said. “That had become a mental challenge and there were a lot of setbacks. I was trying to get back to full fitness quickly but that did not work out and a lot of mental pressure came at the time. But touchwood, everything went fine, the rehabilitation went well and a lot of people helped me.”
“It was important,” said Pandya when asked about his form and his knocks in the DY Patil Cup. “I had not played anything 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.
“So I just kept on playing, my confidence kept improving and the sixes were coming off well. I thought if they are coming off well, why should I stop and I kept going. But I never thought that I want to hit 20 sixes in an innings,” he added.