Out of Team India’s scheme of things since the end of their campaign in this year’s T20 World Cup, Hardik Pandya is likely to head to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore next year to work further on regaining prime fitness.
Currently undergoing rehab in Mumbai, Hardik, it was learnt, could be there at the NCA either January end or early February to work mainly on his bowling fitness. The all-rounder had suffered a back injury that had affected his bowling and is out of competitive cricket for almost a month-and-a-half.
India’s game versus Namibia on November 8, which was also their final appearance in the T20 World Cup, was the last time Hardik took the field. He was thereafter not included in the T20I series versus New Zealand and is set to be kept out of the squad for the ODIs in South Africa as well.
After returning from South Africa, India host the West Indies for three ODIs and as many T20Is from February 6 to 20. Being at the NCA in February implies Hardik could also miss the home series versus the Windies.
India are also scheduled to host Sri Lanka for two Tests and three T20Is from February 25 to March 18. Whether the 28-year-old returns for the Sri Lanka T20Is, which begin on March 13, or by the time IPL 2022 gets underway remains to be seen.
Almost a fortnight ago, Hardik had uploaded a video on his Instagram handle, where he was seen working out at the gym. Planks, push-ups, pull-ups, squats and goblet squats were among the parts of his workout programme.
“Renewed, rejuvenated, reloading,” Hardik had also mentioned in the video.
Unable to bowl at all in his 12 appearances in IPL 2021, Hardik did send down two overs each in India’s T20 World Cup matches versus New Zealand and Afghanistan, conceding 17 and 23 runs, respectively, going wicketless. In other words, he wasn’t really looking comfortable while bowling.
With the bat too, Hardik couldn’t live up to the team’s expectations of him as a finisher, especially in the matches against Pakistan and New Zealand where his contribution was very much required.
His comeback to the India squad would not be too easy as Venkatesh Iyer, also an all-rounder like Hardik, has been able to impress the team management in the game time has had in the recent T20I series versus the Black Caps.