Cricket / Airport staff told Dhoni I was coming, spoiled my surprise before I took off: Pandya

Zoom News : Oct 18, 2021, 05:20 PM
Dubai: Hardik Pandya was all praise for MS Dhoni and stated there will be a big responsibility on his shoulders as a lead finisher of the team in absence of the former India captain in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.

With the Indian team management assessing all-rounder Hardik Pandya's back over the last week, it was decided that he will primarily be a finisher in the World Cup in UAE. Speaking to ANI, sources in the team had said Hardik is still not a 100 per cent when it comes to bowling, but his experience when it comes to absorbing pressure and finishing games with the bat cannot be overlooked.

"The biggest so far, I will say, because this time I don't have Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Everything is on my shoulders -- I like to think that way because it gives me an added challenge. It is going to be exciting, a cracker of a tournament," Hardik told ESPNcricinfo when asked about how big a responsibility it will be to be a lead finisher of the Indian team going into the T20 WC.

Pandya also threw light on how MS Dhoni was one of the people who helped him during the difficult time when the all-rounder was suspended by the BCCI for comments made on a TV talk show.

"MS was someone who understood me from the start: how I function, what kind of a person I am, what are the things I don't like, everything. When I was picked for the New Zealand series [in January 2019, after the suspension was revoked], initially there were no hotel rooms [for Pandya in New Zealand]. But then I get a call, saying, "You just come. MS has told us, 'I don't sleep on the bed [in any case]. He will sleep on my bed and I will sleep on the floor.'" He [Dhoni] was the first person who has been always there. He called me around the same time I had the conversation with Akash [Ambani]."

"He knows what kind of an individual I am. He knows me quite deep. I am very close to him. He is the only person who can make me calm. When all this happened, he knew that I needed support. I just needed a shoulder, which he provided multiple times in my cricketing career. I never saw him as MS Dhoni the greatest. For me, Mahi is my brother. I respect and admire the fact that he was there when I needed him the most," he added.

The all-rounder also stated that MS Dhoni is a life coach for him. "In a certain way, yes. We have lovely conversations. As I said, only Mahi can make me understand certain things. Sometimes if I get strong-headed and I go into that zone and I believe some things, I have to call him and say, "Yeh soch rahan hoon, kya chal raha hai, batao." [This is on my mind. What do you think?] Then he will explain. So, yes, in a lot of ways he is a life coach," he said.

"Staying with him, obviously, you learn to be mature, you learn to become humble. I have learned a lot by watching him. He never loses his cool."

Notably, MS Dhoni is currently with Virat Kohli and boys as the mentor for the team in the World Cup in UAE.

India will open its T20 World Cup campaign against Pakistan on October 24 in Dubai. After the upcoming T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli will be stepping down as the side's captain in the shortest format.