India vs England T20 World Cup warm-up: When Amitabh Bachchan greeted Hardik Pandya and his father

Team India and Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya considers the ongoing T20 World Cup 2021 the biggest responsibility of his career as a finisher because ‘everything is on my shoulders’ in the absence of ‘life coach and brother’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the playing line-up. Hardik and elder brother Krunal lost their father Himanshu earlier this year and the all-rounder recounted his meeting with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan after the Indian Premier League win in 2017.

In an interview to ESPNcricinfo’s Cricket Monthly, the 28-year-old superstar recalled the meeting with Kaun Banega Crorepati host. “When Amit sir (Amitabh Bachchan) came, he asked for us first. Someone came and said: “Mukesh sir (Ambani, owner of Mumbai Indians) is calling because Amit ji wants to meet you guys. I took our father as well. He was blushing. I could see his watery eyes – he was not crying, but just when you get overwhelmed and overawed,” Hardik is quoted as saying in the interview.

“It was one of those memories which I and Krunal will always remember of our father being so proud. Amitabh Bachchan, the legend, is asking for you. There were bigger people than us there, but he is greeting us first, and saying that to our father. My father must have told 1000 people about that incident.

“There have been other times. Mukesh sir said to him once: “Don’t worry about your children, they are my children now.” My father’s heart must have been flooded with so many emotions because of the kind of struggles he had. He had seen a lot of ups and downs. I always tell people, now that I am a father, what he did for us at that age – for him to leave everything (Pandya senior moved the family from Surat to Baroda in the mid-1990s, so Krunal could join Kiran More’s cricket academy) and to focus on his sons so they could achieve something in their lives… if I have to take a call right now to leave everything – by all means I love my son, but that will be a very, very challenging call,” Hardik added.

On to his own self and Hardik acknowledged that he has not been perfect but his family has made sure that he has never gotten too big for his boots. “I accept my flaws or I give myself that benefit of doubt that, okay, you were young. The early two years (of my career), maybe I was little here, little there, but we were a close family.

“There is absolutely one thing clear in our family: if I’m wrong means I’m wrong; there’s no sugarcoating. That makes us a strong family because everyone can have an opinion. In our family if someone is flying, they make sure to pull them down.”

A lower back injury, which required a surgery, has all but ended Pandya’s chances of playing Test cricket but he does not worry about it too much. “There is no fear. It’s okay.”

Pandya said the greatest virtues in his book are honesty and having the good sense to concede when wrong. He cited his approach towards the TV show controversy to drive home the point.

“My plan at the time was always that: Hardik, three years down the line if someone is having this conversation, I don’t want to say: ‘I was caught in a trap’ or ‘It was not my mistake.’

“…I accepted it. I said sorry…It gave me a lot of clarity. It gave me a lot of peace.”

Hardik will be seen in action with Team India as they face England in a T20 World Cup 2021 warm-up match in Dubai on Monday (October 18) evening.

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Sagar Biswas

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