The last time they took part in a show, it was frivolous and a forgettable one for all but on Thursday, Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul ensured that little kids had an unforgettable time in their presence.

As a bunch of school kids waited patiently for their cricket clinic with the Indian cricketers, there was curiosity over who will conduct the session; specially after a gruelling practice session ahead of their World Cup fixture against Afghanistan here on Saturday.

And then suddenly, it was Hardik and Rahul standing at the staircase, ready to join the kids for the clinic arranged by the ICC. It was a chance for some “good optics” for the BCCI and at least the flamboyant all-rounder did way more than celebrity cricketers do at such events.

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“He got a lot of flak (for his comments on a TV show) but those who have been around Hardik know that he isn’t a bad human being,” said a BCCI official.

The next 30 minutes saw Hardik become one of the kids in the clinic. He would deliberately get out and the kids were overjoyed. He would then put a cone on his head and a ball over it.

Rahul also did his bit giving throwdowns but Hardik’s involvement was distinctly much more. His interaction with the children was a sight to behold. When they sat in a group, even he was there in that circle, one among them.

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A little later, Rishabh Pant also joined the kids. World’s ‘best babysitter’ got a roar of approval as he sent some of those soft balls outside the park.

Ab dekhna Rishabh ne maraa, toh ab yeh (Hardik) bhi marega, ” said a familiar voice from the dressing room balcony. It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni watching the event alongside Yuzvendra Chahal and Mohammed Shami.

And the team’s senior-most player was so right. The next ball was hit in the stands and the children loved it. The India all-rounder then did a jump and jig, his customary celebration style whenever he wins matches for Mumbai Indians.

Hardik is performing well and it reflected in his mood. He was cheerful, interactive and the children were happy.