All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who last bowled in professional cricket in the T20I series against Sri Lanka in July, was seen rolling his arms in the nets for the first time in months. India chief coach Ravi Shastri and mentor MS Dhoni closely monitored the 28-year-old's progress from a distance.
Hardik's fitness has been concern for India for a while now. His selection in India's T20 World Cup 2021 squad was also questioned for the same reason by some.
Hardik did not even bowl a single delivery in the UAE leg of the IPL 2021 before opting to not roll his arms in the two warm-up games which India played ahead of the Super 12 round. In India's opener against Pakistan on October 24, Hardik Pandya was included in the eleven but only as a specialist bowler.
The absence of the sixth bowling option did hurt India in the match as Pakistan chased down 152 without losing a wicket.
On Wednesday, the Mumbai Indians star bowled close to 20 minutes to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur in one of the nets. He also went through fitness drills, which included short sprints, under the watchful eyes of strength and conditioning coach Sohum Desai and physio Nitin Patel.
Later,the Gujarat-born took throwdowns from batting coach Vikram Rathour.
Ahead of the showpiece event, Shardul Thakur was included in the 15-man squad as a cover for Hardik Pandya. However, the management is trying to stick to Hardik because of his hitting abilities lower down the order. A couple of overs from him will improve the team combination and help Virat Kohli from some major headaches.
Ahead of the Pakistan game, captain Virat Kohli had said that he expects the all-rounder to bowl at least two overs at some stage during the tournament.
Hardik Pandya had injured his shoulders in the clash against arch-rivals Pakistan and did not field in the second half of the match. But the scan report has cleared him of any injury concern and he is very much expected to feature in the crucial encounter against New Zealand on Sunday in Dubai.