Hardik Pandya back to bowling in Mumbai T20 event ahead of IPL

Named MI captain in place of Rohit Sharma, the allrounder will be looking to recover his mojo as a performer and captain

Hardik Pandya (photo: ICC)
Hardik Pandya (photo: ICC)

NH Sports Bureau

The good news for Mumbai Indians fans is that with less than a month to go for the IPL 2024, their new captain Hardik Pandya is back in competitive cricket. The allrounder, who was out of action since the early stages of the ODI World Cup in October 2023 owing to an ankle injury, picked up two wickets for the Reliance team in the DY Patil T20 tournament in his first match in nearly five months.

Pandya, sporting long hair and a bandana, gave away 22 runs in his three overs while playing against ONGC Reliance 1. He is leading a line-up that features the likes of Tilak Verma, Nehal Wadhera, Akash Madhwal and Piyush Chawla, most of his MI teammates.

The injury-prone allrounder’s high profile trade from Gujarat Titans to MI last November, and anointment as captain in place of Rohit Sharma, did not go down well with the legion of Rohit fans. The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), meanwhile, chose to keep its faith in Rohit as the leader for the T20 World Cup in June despite Pandya being the regular skipper of the national T20 team ever since the last World T20 in Australia.

Incidentally, Ishan Kishan — who has earned black points with the BCCI for repeatedly flouting the board’s directive to play the Ranji Trophy — had been training with the Pandya brothers at Kiran More’s academy in Baroda. The wicketkeeper-batter, who is out of the reckoning for national selection at the moment, has a lucrative contract with MI, while More is the talent hunt head of the powerful franchise, making Ishan’s IPL priorities very clear.

Pandya, meanwhile, missed out on the series of five T20Is against Australia at home and the tour to South Africa, which consisted of three ODIs and T20Is each. Suryakumar Yadav, the world's number-one ranked T20I batter, stepped up as captain in Pandya’s absence but is in rehab after a surgery himself.

Incidentally, it was in IPL 2022 that Pandya returned from a protracted injury and turned a new leaf in his career, both as a performer and Titans captain when he led them to the title on his maiden appearance.

The upcoming IPL will be a stepping stone for him to prove his readiness for the World T20 in the West Indies and US. Earlier this month, BCCI secretary Jay Shah expressed optimism that Team India would end their ICC trophy drought of over a decade this time. “We may have lost the final of World Cup 2023. But we won the hearts of everyone by winning 10 matches in a row. I am confident that India will lift the 2024 T20 World Cup under Rohit Sharma’s captaincy at Barbados,” Shah had said.

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