'I am looking forward to this IPL because I have been away from the sport for quite long time.'
Injury-prone India all-rounder Hardik Pandya says he is still a 'work in progress' as he gears up to lead Gujarat Titans in IPL 2022, starting on March 26.
The 28-year-old has been battling fitness concerns ever since injuring his back in 2019 and was left out of the Indian team for the last few series against New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka.
"I was just spending time with family, working hard as always. (I'm) making sure I prepare well. For me, it was a time of self realising a lot of think about what I want and what will work for me going forward and I got this answers during this time,” Hardik said in a video posted on the IPL website.
There was a lot of buzz when Pandya was named the captain of Gujarat Titans after he was not retained by Mumbai Indians ahead of the IPL mega auction in February.
"I don't think it is going to be my comeback or I am focusing on it. For me, right now I just want to be in a positive mindset and I'm not looking way ahead, I am just focussing on things which are controllables, which is looking after my body and making my team win," he said.
"Eventually if I do things right for Gujarat Titans in IPL then things will fall into places for future as well. I am just a work in progress right now but for me, what will be important is that I will always be available for the players no matter what time and day. I want to give the players security and freedom."
Pandya, who has been demoted from Grade A to C in the BCCI central contracts, had recently undergone a general assessment at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru where he bowled and also passed the Yo-Yo Test comfortably.
"I am looking forward to this IPL because I have been away from the sport for quite long time. For me it is very exciting, I will get to see where exactly I am after three months of hard work that I have put in behind closed doors," he said.
"Result doesn't matter because I have learnt hard work doesn't guarantee you success but the right process will eventually get you success."
Gujarat Titans will clash with fellow debutants Lucknow Super Giants – led by KL Rahul -- in their IPL opening match on March 28.
"I'm quite happy with the team. It is a new team and to be honest, we are not here to prove anyone anything. We are here to play good cricket.
"We are here to make sure that the environment is right for the players to flourish in their own capacity. There's no expectation as such. We are going to be a team that makes sure it keeps improving."
andya, who made his first appearance in the IPL in 2015 for Mumbai Indians, expressed his gratitude to the five-time champions.
"I am very grateful to Mumbai Indians. I played international cricket because of Mumbai Indians. I have achieved a lot and it was close to my heart but now I am looking forward to new opportunities," he said.