Last week, India's selectors decided to rest allrounder Hardik Pandya from the first two Tests against Sri Lanka. A BCCI media release said the decision was taken in consultation with the team management to help reduce the chance of injury. On Monday, Pandya revealed that he had requested the time off himself.
"To be honest, I asked for it, because my body was not alright," he told CNN-News 18. "I want to play cricket when I'm totally fit and I'm giving my 100% and I was not able to give that because of a few niggles here and there, which is bound to happen because of the amount of cricket which I have played over this one year."
Since the start of the Champions Trophy, Pandya has played 30 of 33 matches for India, across formats. In fact, over the past five months, no one has bowled more than his 147.2 overs in ODI cricket. The burden of such a workload took a toll on him, Pandya said, especially in light of his limited experience in the game.
The 24-year old had only played 13 first-class, 10 List A and 28 T20 matches prior to his elevation to international cricket. Although he did quite well to shoulder a frontline allrounder's responsibilities - Pandya scored a century on his first Test tour and won the Player-of-the-Series award in the ODIs against Australia - it was also difficult.
"I have played 30 ODIs, 25 T20Is and three Test matches in one-and-a half-years," he said. "I have not played this much cricket in my total cricketing career in such a short time. As an allrounder, it's difficult. I do my bowling, I do my batting, I do fielding as well, and managing my workload is very important right now because I have not played much cricket in my life."
In the weeks he will spend away from the Indian team, Pandya hopes to better his fitness and also prepare for the tour of South Africa that begins with the New Year's Test on January 5. "I'm lucky that I got this rest. Actually, rest means I'm going to train in the gym and improve my fitness and again come back properly fit. I'm pretty excited for the South Africa series. I wanted that break to get super fit for the South Africa series and then I can bounce back quickly.
"People keep on talking about away series. People keep on talking about England tours, South Africa tours, Australia tours, which is important, which is hard. I like these kinds of challenges I keep on getting in my life. That keeps me going all the time. It may be an important thing for me, important to have an allrounder who can contribute in bowling and batting both. I might be the difference, let's see. I've never played in South Africa. I'm pretty sure we're going to do well."
There has been some criticism, though, with regard to why a young player, only starting out his international career, was being handled so delicately. Pandya, however, isn't paying any mind to that. "Let's be honest. It doesn't matter what they think. What matters is what the management thinks and what I think is important for me."