Hardik Pandya served enough notice of how hungry he was to return to the game after almost five months, following a lower back surgery.
However, an unexpected, unwanted seven-month break must’ve left him frustrated no end. Having endured an ordinary time for the last couple of years in what still looks a very promising career, the 26-year-old all-rounder must be itching to make a mark with both bat and ball.
Apart from the selectors, the Baroda man will also be under the watch of the BCCI medical team. They will monitor if his back holds up to the rigours of a high-intensity tournament.
IPL for Pandya would enable the selectors to punt on him to play a key part in India’s winter tour of Australia too. For MI, he is a potent weapon – he holds the key for a late surge and an economical spell in the middle-overs. With him in the middle, they can hope to chase down big targets. An additional yard of pace and the newly acquired helicopter shot are waiting to be brought out of the closet.
Time for the just-turned-dad to produce some Big Daddy performances.
Mumbai Indians SWOT analysis
Weakness: MI do not have batsmen who can rotate strike, barring Rohit. Most of them are big hitters and on slow pitches, they’d need players who can rotate strike convincingly. Also, with
Chris Lynn in the side, the successful combo of Suryakumar Yadav and Quniton de Kock may have to be disturbed.
Opportunity: The spin department looks weak. Although
Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar have proven their credentials, they lack a game breaker like a Rashid Khan or Imran Tahir. New addition Jayant Yadav may find the pitches to his liking.
Threat: A massive void created by the absence of pacer
Lasith Malinga. He has delivered in crunch situations. Hardik Pandya too is returning after a prolonged absence and has not played too much competitive cricket.
Strength: MI’s greatest strength is their consistency. They have won the title four times and have a leader in
Rohit Sharma, who has led by example. Not only has he been one of their most successful batsmen, his leadership skills have come to the fore on plenty of occasions when MI have found themselves in the woods.
Jasprit Bumrah‘s skills and all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s explosive ability gives them a cutting edge.
TOI MI XI: Quinton de Kock, Chris Lynn, Suryakumar Yadav, Rohit Sharma,
Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni.