The Covid-19 pandemic may have hit the sporting world hard, postponing and even cancelling many tournaments across the globe but it gave top Indian cricketers much-needed time away from cricket and allowed them to get back to full fitness. Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya is one of the primary ones among them.
The hard-hitting all-rounder has had his fair share of injuries in the last two years, which have forced him to miss matches and even series. Hardik did prove his fitness in the DY Patil T20 cup earlier this year but the IPL 2020 opener against Chennai Super Kings on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, will be the all-rounder’s first recognised cricket match in 12 months. (Also Read: Full coverage of IPL 2020)
Padya last played a T20I against South Africa in September 2019. The Mumbai Indians think tank too is aware of the workload of one of their premier all-rounders in the lead-up the 13th edition of IPL.
“Hardik is coming back from an injury. So we will have to be mindful of that but he is looking very good in the nets,” Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene said while responding to Hindustan Times’ question during MI’s virtual media conference on Thursday.
In whatever glimpse that we have got of Hardik from MI’s various social media handles, the junior Pandya does look to be in fine touch and raring to go. But unlike in Indian colours, where he has to play the role of a designated fifth bowler and at times the third seamer and also bear the bulk of the load of finishing matches with the bat, Pandya has a much different or in other words a simpler role for MI.
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“We have used him (Hardik) in different roles in the past and we will look into that. We have quite a number of other players who can fit into that role as well, so whenever the opportunity is there we ask anyone to finish the game off,” said the former Sri Lanka captain adding that finishing matches with the bat does not depend on Pandya alone.
“It doesn’t just fall on Hardik but it is one of his responsibilities, so we want to try and challenge players in different ways in this camp, so we will continue to do that,” he said.
Jayawardena is spot on. The presence of Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav in MI’s batting-unit eases a lot of pressure for Pandya. He can then play his natural game of going after the bowling from ball one, which he did to perfection, scoring at a staggering strike rate of 191.12 in last IPL. He also scored 402 runs at an average of 44.66 which is by far the Baroda cricketer’s best in the five seasons that he has played in the IPL.