Mumbai: As he sat down for the customary pre-match press conference ahead of the opening T20I against Sri Lanka, India’s stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya faced a few questions about his bowling.
The 29-year-old all-rounder has been troubled by a back injury for some time and for a long time did not bowl, playing as a pure batter in white-ball cricket. Pandya started bowling during IPL 2022 as he led Gujarat Titans to their maiden IPL title.
As India embarked on a hectic schedule in which they will play six T20Is, nine ODIs and four Tests (against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia) in the first three months of the ODI World Cup year, questions over the bowling of India’s key allrounder were justified.
Pandya blasted over the boundary the first question on how he will manage his bowling. He said being the captain, it will be up to him to manage things.
“If I feel like bringing myself in, I will do that. There should not be any concerns in that regard,”
On Tuesday he proved his point as Pandya opened the bowling with India defending a modest total against Sri Lanka in the first T20I of the three-match series.
Playing on a Wankhede pitch that was slow but good for batting, Pandya opened the bowling and troubled the Sri Lankan batters. Hardik bowled some great lines despite the dew and nearly got the edge on a couple of occasions as he finished with 0-12 from three overs.
He could have got a wicket too if Sanju Samson had not put down a straightforward chance off Pathum Nissanka in his first over. On his second legal delivery, after bowling a wide, Pandya got Nissanka to chip it in the air over the bowler’s head and Samson ran from mid-off and attempted an acrobatic catch but the ball popped out of his hands.
The 29-year old Pandya bowled military-medium and beat the bat on a couple of occasions and conceded only one four. However, the pressure he created at one end helped Shivam Mavi, Umran Malik and Harshal Patel claim wickets.
Meanwhile, Hardik, wore a sly smile, having responded to doubts about his bowling and also showed that he was not afraid of taking up the responsibility when needed.