Hardik Pandya started his captaincy stint in the IPL with a victory as his Gujarat Titans edged out KL Rahul’s Lucknow Super Giants at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday. Hardik contributed with the bat with a knock of 33 runs. But it was his bowling that made everyone take notice.
Hardik had a rather poor outing with the ball, giving away 37 runs in 4 overs without picking up a wicket. But the very fact that he bowled the 4 overs could be a positive sign for his team as well as the Indian cricket team.
Hardik has struggled with his fitness since his back injury a few years ago and he has not been bowling regularly, something that cost him his place in the Indian limited overs team after the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup.
Former India coach Ravi Shastri thinks Hardik will walk into the Indian team if he can start bowling regularly again and his captaincy stint in the IPL could be the “injection” that Hardik needs to get back to his best.
“He looks fit and the early picture also says that he has probably worked very hard and also realises that with the World Cup coming up in four months from now, he has got to be in at his optimum fitness. We saw before the toss he was bowling and loosening up, which is a terrific sign for Indian cricket because I think he is twice the player when he bowls. It gives that added strength to his bow. He plays and bats differently,” Shastri told ESPNCricinfo.
“Now that he is captain there is more responsibility and perhaps it is just the injection he needs to be super charged,” he added.
Shastri also said that Hardik’s fitness is important for the IPL as well as he is a complete entertainer and crowd pleaser.
“There is no greater site in IPL when someone like Hardik is in full flow. He is an entertainer, match-winner and crowd pleaser. He has got the whole package. One hopes he is fully fit from the tournament point of view, the entertainment point of view and of course for his team that is playing in the IPL for the first time.
He knows if he is fully fit, he walks into the side. If he is fully fit and bowling, I don’t think he has to worry about his place in the side, the other guys will have to. He is a match winner and a complete package. He is a safe fielder in the outfield. He is a smart bowler, he judges things well because he thinks like a batter when he bowls,” Shastri said.
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