“Important that we make sure that he is completely in a position to come in and bowl”
Hardik Pandya, who has a shoulder niggle, could be ready to bowl in the next few weeks, according to the Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene, but the team “don’t want to risk it” in the ongoing IPL till he recovers completely and feels comfortable enough.
“We were obviously looking forward for him to be bowling this series as last season he was coming back from injury,” Jayawardene said in a press interaction. “But after the ODIs against England I believe he picked up a niggle. So that’s something we are nursing at the moment. We don’t want to risk it because it’s important that we make sure that he is completely in a position to come in and bowl.”
“Hopefully in the next few weeks, with work and all that, you might see him bowl. It’s not like we are deliberately trying not bowl him. We would love to have him bowling but as soon as the niggle cools off and he is comfortable we should be able to utilise that asset as well.”
Pandya, who has not bowled much in the last couple of years mainly because of lower-back issues, played as a specialist batter during the 2020 IPL. He returned to bowling in the five T20Is against England in March, before which he had bowled just four overs during the second ODI against Australia in November 2020 – the first time he had bowled since the 2019 50-over World Cup. He bowled only in one of the three ODIs against England that followed the T20Is.
Earlier, the franchise’s bowling coach Zaheer Khan had said that Pandya’s shoulder concern was “not worrisome”, adding that he would be bowling “very soon”. “He bowled in the India-England series, in the last ODI he bowled about nine overs, and that’s why in consultation with the physios, we had to take that approach,” Khan had said. “There was a little bit of a shoulder concern. I don’t think it’s worrisome, you will very soon see him bowl. For the timelines, you’ll have to ask the physio but in terms of Hardik the bowler coming in this tournament, we are very confident that he will be chipping in.”
Pandya has continued to play as a specialist batter for the team this year as well, with Kieron Pollard being used as the sixth bowling option. He had said last year during the Australia tour that his long-term plan was to bowl mainly “in the important games” like “World Cups and “other crucial series”.
Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo