Will a fit Hardik Pandya still be an automatic choice for the T20 World Cup in Australia?

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Hardik Pandya has struggled with his fitness since 2018.

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Will a fit Hardik Pandya still be an automatic choice for the T20 World Cup in Australia?

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Kunal Joshi

03/30/2022

Hardik Pandya is one of the most talked-about players in Indian cricket and comes in the rare list of players who have the ability to change the course of the game both with bat and ball. The all-rounder's fitness issues keep impacting him which makes it difficult to select him for the Indian team.

Hardik Pandya is one of the most talked-about cricketers in the current crop of Indian players. The all-rounder always generates some sort of opinion amongst people. You may like or dislike him but cricket fans will always have an opinion about him. The 28-year-old cricketer has been in and out of the national side due to injuries that he has been struggling with since 2018. Yet, whenever an ICC tournament is around the corner Hardik Pandya's place on the Indian side is always debated. Let's see rewind a bit and go through the all-rounder's journey.

Born in Surat, Gujarat in 1993, Hardik Pandya was born in a middle-class family and his father Himanshu Pandya ran a small business in the city. As a kid, Hardik took a keen interest in playing cricket which his father saw and also probably figured that his son had talent. This is why his father Himanshu Pandya decided to move to Vadodra when Hardik was 5 as the city had better opportunities in terms of cricket. 

Hardik Pandya's family was struggling as they were not financially stable after moving to a different city but he and his brother were getting good training in terms of cricket. The opportunity allowed Hardik to learn and grow as a cricketer and helped him shape a solid base that would go on to help him in having a successful career. 

The young Hardik Pandya slowly and steadily started making a name for himself in junior-level cricket. He was being noticed and his performances at that level helped him get entry into the Baroda cricket team in 2013. He made his Ranji Trophy debut against Madhya Pradesh on November 28. In his first-class career, Hardik Pandya has played 29 matches and 1,351 runs with an average of 30.02. He also has 48 wickets to his name in first-class cricket. 

The Indian Premier League has helped many youngsters make a name for themselves and get recognised. Hardik Pandya's success story begins with the cash-rich league. In the year 2015, Mumbai Indians roped him in and he got a chance to make his debut against Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, it was the game against Kolkata Knight Riders where he smashed 61 from 31 balls that made him famous. It was a high-pressure game as Mumbai Indians needed to win to qualify for the play-offs. It was then that the twenty-two-year-old all-rounder stepped up and smashed the bowlers all around the park to help his team qualify. 

From thereon, he became a regular in the Mumbai Indians playing XI and was given the role of a finisher alongside a stalwart like Kieron Pollard

Following his exploits in the IPL, Hardik was called-up to the Indian team in the T20 format. He made his debut against Australia in January 2016. Many believed that the fast-bowling all-rounder was one of the best finds in the modern-day era as players like him are rare and given immense balance to the side. 

He slowly and steadily made his debut for India in ODIs and it seemed like he was on his way to becoming a prominent figure in the Indian team. The all-rounder kept picking crucial wickets and chipped in with the bat whenever required. In 2018, he was given his Test cap against Sri Lanka which was proof of how much faith the team management had in him. 

Just when it seemed like Hardik Pandya's career was on his way to achieving great heights, the all-rounder suffered an injury. The incident happened in September 2018 in a game against Sri Lanka. The then 25-year-old all-rounder had to be stretchered off the field as he pulled a muscle. He remained out of action for a long time and only returned to play the 2019 edition of the IPL and the World Cup.

After playing in the two tournaments, Hardik again started having issues because of which he was again out of action. The all-rounder had to undergo surgery in October 2019 which happened in London. Since then, he has never bowled regularly for India or even his IPL franchise Mumbai Indians.

The degree of his injury was never revealed by the BCCI or the player himself. But the reason behind him being a part of the Indian team was the balance that he brought to the side. With his bowling taking a back seat, it was getting increasingly difficult for former captain Virat Kohli and the team management to justify his place. 

Questions kept rising as he was not seen bowling in IPL 2020 as well as the 2021 edition making the picture clear that it was highly unlikely that he will bowl in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Even then the team management, selectors and the medical staff of the Mumbai Indians franchise kept mum never revealing the extent of his injury.  

Eventually, he was picked and as everyone knew he could not bowl as much as Virat Kohli and his team would have liked. India had a disastrous showing in the T20 world cup and crashed out in the league stage. Since then, Hardik Pandya made himself unavailable for selection as he wants to regain full fitness before he returns to the national side. But, it may not be as easy for him.

With Venkatesh Iyer doing well with the bat for KKR as well as India in the games that he played, Hardik Pandya has some serious competition even if he regains full fitness and can bowl his quota of four overs. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur who are exceptional fast bowlers have also displayed their might with the bat.  The scenario has changed for Hardik Pandya and it is highly unlikely that the Gujarat Titans skipper who did bowl at almost 140kmph during the game will be walking into the playing XI of Rohit Sharma's side which goes to Australia. 

The all-rounder from Baroda will have to put in the hard yards and be better than his competitors if he wants to be on the flight to Australia for the T20 World cup later this year. 

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