The Indian team has to wait to know when or whether Hardik Pandya will be part of their plans for the T20 World Cup coming up in October. Struggling to come to terms with a lower-back injury, the allrounder has been ruled out of the Test series in New Zealand to be played later this month. Although there is time for the World Cup, this becoming a recurring problem doesn’t augur well for the team. According to a statement from the BCCI, Pandya is in London to consult the surgeon who had operated on him in October last year.
“He travelled to London and was accompanied by the NCA’s head physio Ashish Kaushik for a review by spinal surgeon Dr James Allibone,” read a release signed by BCCI secretary Jay Shah. “Hardik will be under rehab at the NCA until he regains full match fitness,” it added. If all goes well, Pandya’s return to cricket might happen at the IPL starting on March 29. While it will be a perfect platform considering that the T20 World Cup comes a few months after that, it has to be seen how he copes with the load of batting, bowling and fielding on a regular basis.
He was out with a similar injury before last year as well and has not been a regular in the side after making a comeback. Pandya last played a Test in 2018 and has not played an ODI after last year’s World Cup semifinal defeat against New Zealand. Regarded an asset in all formats for his ability to perform multiple roles, he was tried out in the shortest format. But the comeback lasted just two games against South Africa in September. He has not played after the surgery in October. The team has made it clear that it treats Pandya as a special player.
He was included in the India A squad for New Zealand without appearing in a domestic game, contradicting the norm for players returning from injuries. The idea to test him in conditions where India are playing a full series now didn’t click either as he was pulled out of the A squad. The latest news keeps things uncertain as far as the team’s plans with Pandya go. He will be included in the squad at the first opportunity alright. But whether he will be able to sustain the level of fitness after performing as an all-rounder is a question that will keep the team management worried.