"I scored in Under-19. I am 24, no 23. So some four-five years back, I scored my hundred. Actually I don't remember when I scored the hundred."
You might imagine Hardik Pandya was so intoxicated by his first Test hundred that he just started blurting things out. In actual fact, though, this was just a straightforward response to a question: "Do you remember your last hundred in any format at any level?"
The question was not out of line. On Sunday, Pandya scored not only his first Test hundred but also his first official one. He came into the Pallekele Test with none in any first-class, List A or Twenty20 cricket. Test cricket can seem easy as such times, when you score your first fifty one Test, maiden hundred in the next, and fetch your team crucial breakthroughs with the ball as well.
"Obviously not," Pandya said, when asked if he was finding it easy at the moment. "But I am pretty glad. God has been pretty kind to me. I got things. I am pretty lucky I got things pretty quickly in life. I am just happy in that way. I have worked hard enough and I am getting whatever I have worked hard for. It is not easy but I don't mind it as well."
Pandya might not have scored many centuries, but he experienced something new when he was constructing his 96-ball innings, or neared the hundred. "First time in my life I have not had the 90s butterfly," he said. "Otherwise - I don't remember previous centuries but - I used to have butterflies from how much I can remember. In today's game - I have said earlier as well - that when I bat, I am in a different zone. When I bat, I don't think about my personal scores and achievements. It has helped me enough. One thing I learned from Mahi bhai is that you always put your team ahead, see the scoreboard and play accordingly. That has helped me throughout."
During his maiden Test century, Pandya also broke the record for most runs, 26, in a single over by an India batsman. "It just happened, honestly I didn't want to go all out in that over, but I don't know what happened," Pandya said. "Maybe I was connecting pretty well, let me try this over and scored 26 runs. [It] feels obviously good. From there I saw the scoreboard, and I was batting on 80 and I was like, "Wow." Then I noticed I was in the zone, I don't usually look at the scoreboard, I don't want to know what's happening around. I just focus on how I can help the innings progress."
The clarity of thought became apparent when he was asked if trying to hit over all nine men on the fence was a challenge. "Could there have been a bigger opportunity than that?" Nine wickets were already down and I knew if I stay in the crease and connect the ball well, it would go for six," Pandya said. "Even if I were to mis-hit, I had to. I had no choice. It was an ideal opportunity, and obviously there was a team's goal and which was to get to 400. We scored close to 490."