Cricket is not just about skill with the bat and ball - in a game where the tiniest error can lead to the gravest of losses, mental toughness is a huge factor - and India's latest Test call-up Hardik Pandya seems to have both. 

The all-rounder spoke about how India A coach Rahul Dravid was the man behind his mental strength, something which will go a long way in cementing his place in the India side for years to come, and more proof of how brilliant Dravid can be as a coach.

"For me, everything changed after my tour of Australia with the India A team. It is a tour that transformed me as a cricketer. I can't but thank Rahul Dravid enough for his contribution. I understood that there is a mental aspect about the game that needs to be worked upon. He (Dravid) made me mentally stronger," Hardik told PTI.

Source: b'Hardik Pandya is a vital cog of the limited overs side and is in line for a Test debut against England. PTI'

"I don't think I have learnt more than what I did during those one and half months under Rahul sir. He would tell me about things that I need to try out. I was mentally strong but after interacting with him, I understood that I could get even better. If my bowling is being talked about today, it's because of Rahul sir and Paras Mhambrey (India A bowling coach)."

India A bowling coach Mhambrey also echoed Pandya's sentiments.

"Since me and Rahul go back a long way, it was easy to share the workload regarding Hardik. Rahul focussed on the mental aspect and he gave me a freehand in dealing with the technical aspect of his bowling," Mhambrey said.

Terming it as the biggest day of his life, Pandya said: "Playing Test cricket is ultimate for anyone and I am no different. Yes, this is my biggest achievement till date. In fact, yesterday the Baroda team was travelling to Raipur for their Ranji game. I told the boys that let me stay back in Mumbai for a day. If I don't get selected, I will join you guys next day. It was the happiest moment."

Source: b'The mentor. Rahul Dravid. PTI'

Hardik has played white ball cricket (T20s and ODIs) at the highest level and he is confident that he can also make the red cherry talk.

"The Red SG Test does more than the white kookaburra. So, as a bowler, I have more opportunity to use variations. I back myself as a proper new ball bowler and I believe that I can use the reverse swing to good effect also."

Speaking about his batting, Hardik is realistic about his position in case he gets a look-in in the playing XI.

"I used to bat at No 3 for Baroda and then I have been batting at No 5 in Ranji Trophy. I have to be realistic that in the Indian team, I can't bat at No 5. I would be probably batting at No 8 or No 9. I am perfectly fine with it. I am ready to bat at any position," Hardik said and there was an element of conviction in his statement.

Feature image source: PTI