Mumbai Indians will not rush back Hardik to bowl until he is completely ready
“Push” Hardik Pandya “too hard” to bowl in the ongoing IPL and that might have a negative impact on his batting. That is the assessment of Mumbai Indians’ head coach Mahela Jayawardene, who said on Friday that the franchise was in touch with the Indian team management concerning Hardik’s fitness and bowling readiness. Jayawardene said that Hardik’s fitness was being “evaluated” on a daily basis, but Mumbai would not rush him back to bowl until the allrounder was completely ready.
“Because he [Hardik] hasn’t bowled since Sri Lanka for a longer period of time and he had another niggle and managed getting through that process, what we are trying to do is what’s best for Hardik going forward,” Jayawardene said at the media briefing on the eve of Mumbai’s clash with Delhi Capitals on Saturday. “And, yes, I understand [there’s] the World Cup as well. We are talking to the Indian management team and make sure that sooner he feels comfortable, we get him to the bowling programme and prepare him.”
Since his return from the back surgery in October 2019, Hardik has bowled just 46 overs across 41 matches. In this period, he has played just white-ball cricket although he was in the squad for the home Test series against England earlier this year. The last time Hardik bowled was on July 25 during the T20I series in Sri Lanka when he delivered two overs.
Hardik has not bowled for Mumbai since the 2020 IPL and has purely played as a batter. While it has affected Mumbai’s bowling strategy, Jayawardene said that the franchise would continue to exercise patience considering Hardik is also part of the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup, which starts immediately after the IPL.
Not just Mumbai, but even the Indian team management, as well as the national selectors, will be monitoring Hardik’s bowling fitness considering India have picked only three specialist fast bowlers in the preliminary squad of 15. While announcing the squad, chief selector Chetan Sharma had said Hardik was “fit” and “will bowl the full quota of his overs” during the World Cup.
However, out of the four matches Mumbai have played so far in the second phase of the IPL, Hardik sat out the first two matches while playing purely as a batter in the last two. But Jayawardene said Hardik was still an “asset” as a batter.
“Whether he can bowl in the IPL or not is something that we will have to look at on a daily basis and evaluate and then see how he progresses. I understand all concerns, but we need to do what’s best for Hardik and him going forward and yes, he will be a good asset as a bowler as well. But at the moment if we push too hard, it might be an issue where he might even struggle and not be an asset as a batsman. So that’s something that we will have to take into account and consideration with all concerned parties and take it a day at a time.”
Ahead of Mumbai’s clash against Delhi Capitals, Hardik said efforts were underway to ensure he would bowl soon: “Aayega jaldi. Koshish poori hai (I will get to bowl soon. Efforts are on)”.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo