HARDIK PANDYA

India's Hardik Pandya. (IANS photo)

DHARAMSALA (IANS) — All-rounder Hardik Pandya is expected to make his comeback to the Indian squad in their upcoming ODI series against South Africa. In an interview with team mate Yuzvendra Chahal which the Board of Control for Cricket in India aired on its website, Pandya spoke about the mental struggle of being on the sidelines.

Pandya last played an international match September 2019. If he is selected for the first ODI that will be played in Dharamsala on March 12, it will be his first ODI match since July 2019.

"I missed this atmosphere the most in these last six months, playing for the country and the feeling you get wearing the team's colors," 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 touch wood, everything went fine, the rehabilitation went well and a lot of people helped me."

Pandya was expected to return for India's recently concluded tour of New Zealand but was pulled out of the A tour before that with the BCCI saying that he was yet to recover fully.

He however proved his fitness before this series during an invitational T20 tournament in Mumbai where he scored two centuries, the second of which was an unbeaten 55-bal 158 in which he smashed 20 sixes.

"It was important," said Pandya about the tournament and the innings. "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," said Pandya.

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