Team India vice-captain Hardik Pandya has made an astonishing revelation about his return from injury. The Surat-born all-rounder, who has experienced a series of fitness problems in the past, was sidelined from the Indian cricket following their exit from the T20 World Cup in the UAE in November 2021. But the flamboyant cricket star made a successful comeback in the Indian Premier League (IPL) before finishing the prestigious tournament with a match-winning performance to lead the Gujarat Titans (GT) to the title in their debut season. Hardik Pandya played a key part with both bat and ball as he took 3/17 in Rajasthan Royals’ (RR) in the innings before scoring 34 off 20 deliveries to complete a lop-sides victory for the Ahmedabad-based franchise.

After surprising nearly everyone with his leadership skills during the IPL, many now see Hardik Pandya as a future captain of the Indian Cricket Team.

But the T20 World Cup in Australia is Hardik Pandya’s main goal in 2022 as unlike the older statesmen of the Indian cricket team, namely Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma who have at least one ICC title in their trophy cabinet, the Baroda all-rounder doesn’t have one.

Coming back to the IPL, Hardik Pandya has now disclosed that it wasn’t easy to come out from a low phase during his career. He reflected that injuries, especially the back injury which nearly ended his career, took a toll on him mentally.

But he ended up winning the battle against the odds because he worked hard at overcoming all those setbacks.

“Emotional-wise I was pretty alright. Obviously, I was happy but for me, it was more about the battle which I won against myself and kind of other things as well. Even qualifying was a big deal for me because a lot of people doubted us before we started. A lot of things were said for me before I made a comeback. For me, it was never about giving them answers but I was just proud of the process that I followed,” Hardik told Star Sports.

“I’ve gotten up at 5 am in the morning to make sure I train and then make sure that the second time I train at 4 pm and give myself enough rest. I slept almost those four months at 9:30 pm. A lot of sacrifices were made but for me, it was the battle which I fought before playing the IPL. After seeing the result, it was more satisfying for me, as a cricketer,” he further added.

On Thursday, Hardik Pandya made his return to international cricket with a bang, smacking a whirlwind 31 not out off 12 balls against South Africa in the first T20I against South Africa in Delhi.

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Hardik Pandya, however, was ineffective with the ball, as Rassie van der Dussen clobbered him for three sixes in his only over of the innings. In the end, it turned out to be a bad day in the office for Team India as Rishabh Pant and company lost the match by seven wickets.

Despite the team’s loss, Hardik was happy with his performance, especially the way he smacked the ball around in the final overs.

“I am obviously very excited. Playing for the country has always been special. Coming after such a long break and coming back fresh gives me the opportunity to kind of show what exactly I’ve worked hard for. Doing well for the country is more important and it gives me immense pleasure,” Hardik said of his India return.

“Every series or every game you play is as important as your last. For me, World Cup is the goal but this is the right platform to prepare for it. Cricket is going to come back to back so you always need to be in the rhythm. This series is a great opportunity for me to express myself. My roles will be changed, I won’t be the captain or batting higher up the order. This will be back to what Hardik has been known for,” he further added.

Meanwhile, ex-India spinner Harbhajan Singh has now backed him to become the captain of the national cricket team in the future and called him “one of the biggest revelations of IPL 2022”.

Harbhajan Singh even praised Hardik’s cool-headed approach in pressure-cooker situations. His aggressive intent on the pitch was another aspect of his captaincy which was highlighted by the cricketer-turned-politician who is now a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s parliament.

“One of the biggest revelations in this year’s IPL was the advent of Hardik Pandya as the skipper of the Gujarat Titans and the way he led the team from the front to win the coveted title is definitely praiseworthy. His intent and positive captaincy are signs that he can lead Team India in the future,” Harbhajan told Indian news agency PTI in an interview.