“Hey, Bhaiya, it’s you, I thought someone else is waiting for me”. This was the greeting I received from a cricketer who would soon find himself in the heart of the Indian One Day team and lately finds himself in a storm of unprecedented proportions. It was my first interview with the budding all-rounder.
Hardik Pandya was not always this cocky and tactless as he appeared to be in Karan Johar’s show. The day I met him there was a familiarity to his charm and innocence to his demeanour. All that changed when he started playing for India.
Not too many people know that Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s unceremonious suspension was not the first time a cricketer has been sent back from an active tour. Much before independence, Lala Amarnath too was sent back from England for refusing to ‘get along’ with the then captain Maharaja Kumar of Vizianagram. But his ouster from the team was entirely a case of ego clashes than any debauchery. Lala Amarnath was the kind of a guy who was too proud to beg and too dumb to steal. Hardik Pandya did not have the luxury of pride and ego. He has been ousted for reasons that totally put the Indian cricket team in a bad light.
Hardik Pandya and his conduct on the show is perhaps a glimpse into the unchartered territory of accomplishing too little too soon and being patted on the back for it. From being compared to Kapil Dev to being hailed as the next best thing in cricket, Hardik was perhaps given the impression that he has arrived and anything he says or does will be eclipsed by his on-field exploits. It is this very entitlement that has gotten a mediocre talent like Hardik Pandya into a position that will render his career forgettable. His first-class career too does not submit justice to his permanence in the Indian team and it is this very fact that begs the question; why did he have to put his foot in his mouth when there is so much rabble waiting in the wings? His age cannot be used for his defence as Kapil Dev was only 24 when he won us the world cup. This is a clear case of false entitlement which perhaps will cut his impermanent career short.
In a country that has grown up admiring the simplicity and humility of a Dravid and Sachin, it is difficult to put up with players who are too eager to flash off their success through non-cricketing antics. His suspension and his vitriolic outlook towards women is a peak into his complacence towards his own misogynistic compliance.
Cricket is a religion here and the kind of scrutiny that behaviour like this will receive is something Hardik should have computed. The flaunt and daunt attitude is no longer inescapable and cricketers should not bite more than what they can swallow. This should serve as a precedent to all those budding players who think that their value in the team outweighs the values they bring into the team.