IPL: When can Hardik Pandya return to action?

BCCI refuses to set a timeline on his return from ankle injury. Meanwhile, Gaikwad is also set to miss the Test series against South Africa

Hardik Pandya in his Mumbai Indians blue jersey (photo courtesy Mumbai Indians)
Hardik Pandya in his Mumbai Indians blue jersey (photo courtesy Mumbai Indians)

NH Sports Bureau

After the drama over the trading of Hardik Pandya to the Mumbai Indians and him being named captain for the 2024 season ahead of veteran Rohit Sharma, there could be a twist in the tale—no time frame has been set for his return from the ankle injury he sustained during the World Cup in October.

The star all-rounder, according to a report in NDTV, will be ‘unavailable’ to lead India in a three-match T20 series against Afghanistan between January 11 and 17 next year. There is also a question mark about his availability for the Indian Premier League, which will begin earlier on March 24 due to the Parliamentary elections next year.  

Pandya, who twisted his ankle while trying to field a ball off his own bowling during a league game against Bangladesh, was ruled out of the white ball leg of the South Africa tour and the latest update — quoting a BCCI source — says no timeline has been set for his return. There has been no communication on his rehab from the BCCI either. During the World Cup also, the team management continued to remain opaque for a while, before naming paceman Prasiddh Krishna as his replacement.  

While the IPL is still nearly three months away, there seems to be a leadership vacuum for the T20I series as Suryakumar Yadav — who stepped into the role in the home series against Australia and then again against the Proteas — has also returned home with an ankle injury.       

Pandya, picked up as a rookie along with his elder brother Krunal by the MI talent scouts, played seven seasons of IPL for Mumbai before being released prior to the 2022 season. After joining the Gujarat Titans, he led the side to back-to-back IPL finals, including earning them the trophy in their debut season as the phase saw him transformed as a player and a leader. 

Meanwhile, injury woes continued to dog the Indian team in South Africa, with opener Ruturaj Gaikwad being ruled out of the two-Test series (beginning on Boxing Day) with a finger injury sustained during the second one-dayer. ‘’He underwent scans, and following an expert consultation, the BCCI medical team has ruled him out of the remainder of the tour. The men’s selection committee has named Abhimanyu Easwaran as his replacement,’’ a BCCI statement said today, 23 December. 

Easwaran, a Bengal opener and their erstwhile red ball captain, is currently in South Africa as part of the India A squad.  

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