CHENNAI: Hardik Pandya seems to have lost nothing as a batsman after recovering from his back injury last year. But the all-rounder doesn’t look the same bowler who ran through England in the Nottingham Test match in 2018.
He didn’t bowl in the last IPL, rolled his arm over in a couple of T20Is in Australia and then finally bowled a bit more against England in the T20s and ODIs at home.
His pace is significantly reduced, even though Hardik seems to have worked on a few variations. His Mumbai Indians bowling coach Shane Bond, who knows a thing or two about dealing with career-threatening injuries, believes Hardik has lost nothing as an all-rounder.
“It’s natural that you will lose a bit of top-end consistent pace after a back injury, but what is important is that he hasn’t lost his aggressive approach. He can use the bouncer too, has the skills to swing the ball and can still work up a good pace,” Bond told TOI on Friday.
The Mumbai Indians team is currently in Chennai getting ready for the IPL starting next Friday and Bond is hoping that Hardik will be at his best. “When you have a surgery, you are likely to get aches and pains in other parts of the body and that’s what happened to Hardik last year during IPL. We did not want him to pick up another injury because he is too valuable as a batsman.
“Our aim was to get him back in the process of returning as an all-rounder for India and he is coming to this IPL having done so against England,” Bond said.
Elaborating on that, the 45-yearold said that Hardik’s superb batting has made him enjoy bowling more. “When he was picked for India, he was seen as a genuine all-rounder. He can still do both equally well, but it’s his batting that has taken the pressure off his bowling. He knows he is one of the best white-ball batsmen in the world and that has made him more comfortable with his bowling.”
Talking about the changes that the Kiwi pace ace has made in Pandya’s bowling, Bond said: “There was a point when I felt he was diving into the crease a little bit too much. He was also mindful of that and got the alignment a little straight and it worked.”
But the former New Zealand tearaway makes it clear that though Hardik brings quality to the table in the white-ball format, it is very important to manage his workload. “I understand that he is a brilliant fourth-pacer option batting at No. 7 in Tests, but I would think he is better off bowling 10 overs a day even when he is playing red-ball cricket, instead of 15-16. Ben Stokes, too, is doing the same,” Bond added.
Talking about his expectations from Hardik in the forthcoming IPL, the bowling coach said that the all-rounder is part of a group and it is about going there and supporting each other. “Last year we used (Kieron) Pollard as the sixth bowler because Hardik was injured. Now we have the best 5, 6 and 7 in the tournament in the form of Pollard, Hardik and Krunal,” Bond said, hoping that Hardik keeps delivering in the T20 World Cup later this year.