Hardik Pandya is among a select few cricketers who can easily be recognised by anyone with little or no interest in the game
On a night when Virat Kohli broke the most significant record of Indian cricket; Shreyas Iyer scored a swashbuckling century, and Mohammed Shamu registered the best ODI bowling figures for India, it’s borderline bizarre to not talk about them but a spectator who enjoyed the thrills of the contest from the comfort of the stands.
But you can’t help when that spectator is Hardik Pandya. As much as the campaign-ending injury would have hurt Pandya, he might also take solace in the fact that he took one for the nation, for his replacement is toying around with all the batting orders that have come against him. This is no way to dismiss the ridiculously talented Pandya, who still remains a sui generis in Indian cricket and we can’t wait to see him back in the action. But let’s not delve into his on-field exploits for once, and focus more on his off-field shenanigans.
India’s Hardik Pandya looks on before the start of the fourth Twenty20 international cricket match between India and South Africa at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on June 17, 2022. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE
In whatever he does, he oozes confidence and swagger. On a Wednesday night at Wankhede Stadium, the semi-final was attended by a throng of celebrities and Hardik Pandya was one of them. By definition itself, cricketers are celebrities in this country. But, not many cricketers seem to revel in the stardom; they often try to maintain an ascetic distance to glitz and glamour.
But not Pandya. He doesn’t shy away from reveling in the stardom, you make him sit with anyone and he won’t look out of place. Case in point: Pandya was seen chatting with Ranbir Kapoor and David Beckham. But, all hell broke loose when he was seen with coconut water in a beige-coloured hat, giving onlookers and fans the impression that he wasn’t there to watch a sporting contest. Clearly, Pandya had an agenda: to grab eyeballs with his holiday avatar. And, so he did!
On that note, one can’t help but note how there’s an eerie similarity parallel to be drawn between Beckham and Pandya. Sociologist Ellis Cashmore once wrote there are two Beckhams: one a footballer as we know and the other that is a “product of our imaginations”. I think we can extend the same analogy to Pandya. There’s one Pandya who works hard, never misses his workouts, and gives everything on the field. There’s another who lives in the interstices of our imagination, the metrosexual man who spends hours picking up his perfect outfit for his daily errands. He is among those few cricketers who can easily be recognised by anyone with little or no interest in the game. He is ready to tread where others never ventured, forcing us to imagine the new possibility of a celebrity athlete.
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