Hardik Pandya has reported at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, where he will undergo fitness tests over the next few days before getting the go-ahead to lead the Gujarat Titans in the upcoming Indian Premier League. The most interesting aspect to watch during trials would be whether the 28-year-old gets cleared to bowl in the cash-rich league where the Titans are due to start their campaign against Lucknow Super Giants on March 28.
“Hardik will be at the NCA for the next two days and will appear at the various fitness tests. He is a centrally contracted cricketer and has not played any cricket since the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates,” one person told PTI. BCCI source on condition of anonymity.
“He would need to pass the fitness test as it has been mandatory for some time now. Last year even Shreyas Iyer showed up for a fitness test after shoulder surgery before playing IPL,” he added.
The national team and NCA medical staff always keep a close eye on their centrally contracted players and it emerged that during the Titans’ brief five-day training camp in Baroda, Hardik had bowled for a couple of sessions.
It is understood that when it comes to batting and fielding, he is completely ready and playing as a pure hitter might not be a problem for the flamboyant all-rounder from Baroda.
However, it is understood that he could still be bowling at 75 per cent of his full potential or what he was before he suffered a lower back injury that led to surgery in 2019.
“If Gujarat is looking for a pure batsman, skipper and finisher, Hardik is in all likelihood ready, but it will be interesting to see what the NCA Sports Medicine & Science team’s opinion is on his bowling. Is he ready? to bowl in 135 clicks up?” said the source familiar with the developments.
Hardik, during the Gujarat Titans jersey toss, held cards close to his chest that said his bowling game would be a “surprise.”
However, recently, during a press conference, the chairman of the selectors, Chetan Sharma, said that his committee will monitor Hardik and that he will only be considered when he bowls regularly like in the old days.
It is not yet known if and when it will happen, but IPL 2022 could see the evolution of Hardik Pandya, the pure batsman.