A shoulder injury ruled him out in the middle of the India-Australia test series. Hardik Pandya had to go through a rehabilitation program in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) at Bengaluru. Now the all-rounder from Baroda is fit and ready to take the field in the Indian Premier League (IPL). In a recent chat with CrickerSoccer, Hardik opens up his mind regarding his fitness, his IPL dream, and the Champions Trophy.

Here are the excerpts:

CricketSoccer: So how are you feeling after the rehabilitation program at NCA?

Hardik Pandya: Ohh.. I am feeling great. I have gained 100 per cent fitness. It was very disappointing not to become a part of the series winning Indian team. But it happens in cricket. Injury is a part and parcel of modern day sports. I was advised to take rest and to rehab in a proper scientific way under the guidance of the NCA physio Andrew Leipus who worked very hard to get me fully fit.

CS: Have you started bowling at the nets?

Hardik: Yes, for last one week I am bowling in full swing at the nets of my IPL team Mumbai Indians. I felt absolutely okay and enjoyed bowling. I have been working pretty hard with my fitness and my hard work is being paid off.

CS: A few months back, you suddenly started to bowl at 140kmph. Do you have to compromise with the speed of your bowling now, keeping in mind that you are making a comeback after a shoulder problem?

Hardik: Not at all. I am still bowling at a considerable speed. Look, I have to follow a specific training schedule to grow muscles and to get stronger. Speed is directly related to the muscle power you have. I have worked hard to be able to bowl fast.

CS: You have shared the new ball in the National team. Are you willing to play the same role in Mumbai Indians?

Hardik: I am ready for any role. I love to bowl with the new ball. It’s true that you can get hammered in the power play. At the same time, it enhances your chance to pick up wickets with the new ball. I love this challenge. If MI wants me to bowl with the new ball, I am eager to contribute.

CS: Do you see yourself as an apt choice for the role of a finisher?

Hardik: Again it’s a challenging job. But at the same time, I enjoy batting in the death overs. The thrill of winning matches for your team, that too under pressure has always been one of my favorite roles. I am quite open to any role on offer in MI.

CS: What is the key to success as a finisher?

Hardik: Always be positive. At the same time, you have to be calculative. You have to take a risk sometimes, but it should not spoil your team’s chances. And you have to be very tough mentally. See, when you have to score 30 runs in 18 balls at the fag end of a match, you also have to win the psychological battle with the opponent team as well.

CS: As Champions Trophy knocking at the door, how crucial is this year’s IPL going to be?

Hardik: Really, this year’s IPL will give me a chance to introspect myself, both in terms of my strength and weakness. As we all know that Champions Trophy is a big tournament, in importance it is just second to Cricket World Cup. We have to prepare well to hold the Trophy in our cabinet. Keeping that in mind, I hope we can have the best possible preparation in this year’s IPL.