Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya targets ICC World Cups to return as bowler

India’s ace all-rounder Hardik Pandya on Friday said that he was focussing and preparing himself to play purely as a batsman till he gets match-ready to bowl.

The younger of the two Pandya brothers had a back injury in 2019 and as he gradually returns to competitive cricket, he is avoiding bowling. He did not bowl at all for the Mumbai Indians in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) and played as a pure batsman in the first ODI against Australia on Friday.

Asked if playing purely as a batsman makes any difference, Hardik said, “(It does) not make much difference. I believe in having both skills. I like to back myself and have that confidence where whatever role is given to me I try to fulfill that to the best of my ability.”

Pandya on Friday played a brilliant knock — 90 off 76 balls — and tried to take the game deep after India lost early wickets. He came into bat after they were reduced to 101/4 in the 14th over.

Unlike his role at Mumbai Indians in IPL’s T20 games, in which he is asked to do power-hitting right from the word go, Pandya on Friday played himself in before unleashing a flurry of boundaries against Glenn Maxwell.

However, the total of 374 proved too much for him and Shikhar Dhawan, who was India’s other top-scorer. Pandya said that playing as a pure batsman he has to start thinking as a batsman only.

“I start thinking as a batter. I try to take the game deep. I try to bat in a way, where I can score more runs than what I am used to. It does not add too much pressure or does not give me any more freedom. It is just that I am enjoying being on the ground as a batter or cricketer,” said Pandya on being asked if playing only as a batter allows him more freedom than playing as an all-rounder.

Pandya did not give any specific time about when he would get match-ready to bowl. But he said he is looking at long-term goals like the World Cups and does not want to rush in. There are three successive World Cups that India play — the T20 World Cups in India and Australia next year and the 50-over World Cup in 2023 in India.

“It is a process. I am looking at a long-term goal time when I want to be 100 per cent of my bowling capacity for the most important games — the World Cups are coming, the most crucial series. I am looking at long-term plan, not short-term plan where I’ll try to exhaust myself and maybe have something else (injury) which is not there,” he said.

“So it is going to be a process that I am following. I can’t exactly tell you exactly when I am going to bowl. But the process is going on. In the nets I am bowling, am not game-ready. I am bowling and making sure that the skill are of international level,” he added.

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Sagar Biswas

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