He may be regarded as one of the best batsmen in India and beyond, but Hardik Pandya may well have missed his sporting calling.
The Mumbai Indians star is in the UAE ahead of the concluding leg of the Indian Premier League, and took time out of his training regime with his Mumbai teammates to try his hand at a whole different ball game — but the end result was very familiar.
Hardik and his brother Krunal popped into Topgolf at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai and the younger sibling stole the show with his golfing skills — having never played the game before.
Topgolf coach Maninder Singh was Hardik’s right-hand man for his planned 15-minute session, and ended up working with him for more than two hours as the cricketer stunned staff as he picked up the game with ease, showing he is an all-rounder at many sports, not just cricket.
“He was just simply hitting some amazing shots,” said Maninder, 33, who has been a coach at Topgolf since in opened in the shadows of Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Dubai Marina in December. “I couldn’t believe it when he said he had only picked up a golf club once before in his life. He was hitting the driver like a pro, with a carry of over 240 yards. I think I learnt from him.
“His concentration levels are something else. You could see how he focused on the task in hand and then executed it to perfection.
Hardik clearly illustrated how he is a quick learner, something that has helped him reach the top in the world of cricket.
“We normally give the basic tips for first-timers — grip, stance and so on — but I found I was giving him high-level tips as he picked up everything immediately,” Maninder told Gulf News.
It looks like Hardik is hooked on the game of golf now and promised Maninder he will be back at Topgolf soon.
“He explained how golf will help his batting skills,” said Maninder. “As the face of a golf club has a small sweet spot, connecting correctly will help with middling the cricket ball when he is at the crease.”
Ever the competitor, after Hardik was given some tips on the difference between hitting a driver and a hybrid or 3-wood, the India star insisted on having a longest drive tournament with Maninder, the first Indian golf coach in the UAE.
“You could see how he switched his mind to competition mode,” said Maninder. “He closed his eyes, said something to himself and then he was in the zone. A few shots each later and we had a clear winner — 160mph, massive carry. You can probably guess it wasn’t me.”