In the three days of action in Karnataka's Ranji Trophy fixture with Vidarbha here, langurs strayed onto the field of play on multiple occasions. It is a normal occurrence at Moti Bagh, assures Kiran More. "You only saw the langurs. We've seen crocodiles, cobras, peacocks, deer, everything," he laughs. "In my playing days, we routinely saw snakes. In the winter, when it got dark early, going back home in the evening was scary. It was just a jungle. We would ride triples on a bicycle because we were afraid."
One of Baroda's favourite cricketing sons, More is a happy man these days. For, Hardik Pandya, a player who joined his cricket academy here at the age of five, is on the verge of making his Test debut. Once a selector himself, More feels Pandya's call-up to the Indian team for the England series could prove to be an inspired decision.
"It's a great call by the selectors," he says. "It's a challenge both for them and Pandya. They're looking at him to do something out of the ordinary. He has the capacity to score Test hundreds. He's not an average batsman. Even if he doesn't do well in this series, he will know what Test cricket is about. He's a player for the future; he's going to be a top all-rounder."
More believes that Pandya, who is sometimes perceived as being unnecessarily flamboyant, has changed since he was dropped from the Indian side after the World T20. "When you play for India, the glamour, the fame, everything comes in. You get so much publicity. Nowadays with social media and TV, you have to be very careful of how you carry yourself. He realized quickly that it's not about the glamour alone. You have to be there in the team and win matches for India. That is the priority. If you forget that, you get dropped. And he got dropped. It was a good wake-up call. Now he has worked hard and come back," he says.
"Every cricketer goes through this. Because, when you play Ranji Trophy cricket, you don't get the glamour part of it. People are not observing what you are doing so keenly. When you play for India, people start watching you. When you do well, they take you to the sky. You have to come down. A break always helps."
Ahead of his tour of Australia with India 'A', More spoke to Pandya often. "He had a very poor IPL. Then he was dropped. I spoke to him about discipline. I told him: 'If you don't concentrate or think about the game, you will face problems,'" he says.
"Every cricketer is different; everyone can't be [understated like] Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar. Every team needs characters, different personalities. But you can still be that and stay disciplined. There has to be a balance. Fortunately, Hardik has realised this quickly."
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