CHENNAI: With just three days remaining for the teams to confirm their squads for the T20 World Cup, the Indian selectors and team management are set to seek a fitness report before a final decision is made. Although the form of a few players is a cause of concern, it pales in comparison to the worry surrounding the fitness of Hardik Pandya. With only three pacers in the squad, should there be no guarantee that Pandya can bowl in all the matches, there are indications that the selectors would look at alternatives.
Since the IPL resumed in the UAE, Pandya has not bowled for Mumbai Indians in addition to missing two matches. While his batting could still be an asset, the balance of the XI will be affected if he is not able to bowl, meaning India have to either drop a bowler or batsman to accommodate him. It is a scenario India are keen on avoiding even if Pandya is able to bowl towards the end of the tournament.
It is understood that the support staff, which is undergoing quarantine in Dubai, has also sought a report from the BCCI medical team and would take a call accordingly. At the moment, as Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene said, they are monitoring him on a day-to-day basis as there are concerns that should he be rushed into bowling, it could have a long-term impact. In fact, ever since he underwent back surgery, Mumbai Indians have been careful with his workload as he played the 2020 edition of the IPL only as a batsman. And even this season, he has not bowled a single over for the defending champions.
However, with the Indian team, starting from the home series against England in March, Pandya has bowled in all T20Is that he has played in. In the ODIs, he hasn't bowled in two of the six matches he played, with the nine overs he sent down in the third game being the most. In the ODIs against Sri Lanka, he bowled five, four and five overs in the three matches.
Speaking ahead of Mumbai's match against Delhi Capitals, Pandya himself revealed that he will start bowling soon without mentioning a time frame. However, the selectors and the team management are keeping a close watch on his fitness. A call will be taken after monitoring his workload and indications are that India will not include him in the squad unless he is 100 per cent fit.
Although the form of a few batsmen and Rahul Chahar has been a cause of concern, they are unlikely to be swapped unless there are fitness issues.