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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Heat on Hardik Pandya & Cup berth hope: Speculation over all-rounder's fitness

On Sunday against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians needed to score at under 13 once Hardik arrived at the crease

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 16.04.24, 11:17 AM
Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya File image

Hardik Pandya is feeling the heat on and off the field. It’s not just limited to the boos at the Wankhede, his performance is also being constantly scrutinised.

On Sunday against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians needed to score at under 13 once Hardik arrived at the crease. When he departed six balls later for 2, it had shot up close to 17.

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His performance has har­dly been inspiring — 131 runs at a strike rate of 145.55 in six matches besides three wickets at an economy of 12.00.

While his batting has suffered under the pressure of expectations, he has bowled in four matches. Only once has he completed his quota of overs, in their away fixture against the Sunrisers.

This has led to speculation over his fitness with Adam Gilchrist describing Hardik’s three-over spell as “scattered”. Bowling has been Mumbai Indians’ weak link this season and none, except for Jasprit Bumrah, has been impressive.

It was only expected that Hardik would have taken the lead role in such circumstances but he has shied away from responsibility. Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashing him for three sixes in the final over of the innings impaired their chances.

How he takes on the challenge from hereon will be interesting. The MI camp is tightlipped but there is talk that he hasn’t fully recovered from the ankle injury which cut short his ODI World Cup campaign in October. The landing and follow-through in his action has been a topic of much deliberation.

“I’ve been there, right, I’ve been in the firing line and I’ve been in it proper. And I can tell you now, it affects you. What’s happening to Hardik, the boos we’ve just been hearing now, how unhappy they are to see the CSK former captain, the lion smacking him all over the park, it hurts you, because he has emotion and he is an Indian player and he does not want to be treated like this,” Kevin Pietersen said on Sunday.

On current form, Hardik is surely not an automatic choice for the T20 World
Cup but he remains crucial to India’s plans. Shivam Dube could be his competitor but he hasn’t bowled in this edition.

Captaincy hasn’t been a hindrance for Hardik since he has handled the leadership role with poise in the past. Hence the fitness issue crops up but can the selectors
show the courage to ignore his credentials?

The coming matches will provide a clue to his chances with the selection set for the first week of next month.

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