The question mark continued to loom over Hardik Pandya’s bowling and fitness as Indian team management decided to keep an eye on him in the net before their match against New Zealand. On Wednesday, Pandya bowled for the first time in the practice session after a prolonged gap.
Owing to his series of back injuries and late recovery, Pandya had not been seen bowling in both last year’s and this year’s IPL. He had also been a part of the Indian squad for the England and Sri Lanka tour in between the two IPLs where he bowled quite well. In the three ODIs against Sri Lanka, he bagged a total of 2 wickets in 14 over for 97 runs.
Considering his overseas performance, he was initially picked up by Chief selector Chetan Sharma for the T20 World Cup as an all-rounder. He was expected to bowl his 4 overs in the tournament. However, the situation changed when he did not pick the bowl during IPL 2021 and, finally, placed against Pakistan at No. 7 as a batter.
Pandya struggled with bat against Pakistan as he merely pulled off an 8-ball 11 and did not ball at all. As a matter of fact, India felt the absence of the 6th bowling option quite strongly during Pakistan’s 152-run chase. He also sustained a shoulder injury in the match. This had left the team management confused about his role and utility in the team. As a result, the Indian team management will now also watch Shardul Thakur at the nets as a replacement of Pandya if anything goes south.
Nonetheless, former fast bowler Zaheer Khan had stressed Pandya’s bowling utility and looked hopeful after Wednesday’s practice session. “Yes, he has started to bowl in the nets so hopeful that he will bowl in the next match. It is going to be crucial because when Hardik is bowling, it does shift the balance of the bowling attack in good strength because as a captain you have that sixth bowling option,” he commented.
Amidst India’s tension around bowling imbalance and Pandya’s plummeting form, BCCI shared photos of Pandya’s bowling session on Twitter on Thursday. Shardul Thakur also spent a few extra minutes with the bat in the training sessions but mentor Dhoni’s focus remained on Pandya before Sunday’s vital match.
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