Mumbai Indians (MI) released all-rounder Hardik Pandya ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 mega auction. Instead, the five-time champions preferred to retain Suryakumar Yadav and West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard apart from the obvious choices - skipper Rohit Sharma and pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
Hardik made his IPL debut for MI in the 2015 season. Since then he has been part of the league’s most successful franchise in every edition. Hardik has played a total of 92 IPL matches, scoring 1476 runs at a strike rate of 153.91. On the bowling front, he has picked up 42 scalps at an economy rate of 9.06 with his medium pace.
Over the years, the 28-year-old has been a key member of the MI franchise, winning them close matches with his sublime hitting and picking up important wickets at crucial junctures.
Hardik Pandya unlikely to be a big draw at IPL Auction 2022?
Despite being a proven performer in the IPL, Hardik might not attract big bids at the mega auction. Here are three reasons why.
#1 There is no clarity over his bowling status
While his big-hitting prowess is a greatest asset, it was his ability to bowl decently that made him a permanent fixture in the MI and Indian line-ups in the shorter formats. As a batting all-rounder who could chip in with a few overs, Hardik provided a good balance to the playing XIs he featured in. Significantly, his consistency with both the bat and ball was impressive.
Things changed drastically after Hardik’s back surgery in 2019. Ever since returning to international cricket following the operation, the all-rounder has been very mindful of his bowling workload. He has hardly bowled a few overs of medium pace over the last year or so. There was confusion about the status of his bowling heading into the T20 World Cup, which continued right through the tournament.
While he did end up bowling in a couple of matches in the T20 World Cup, he hasn’t bowled a single ball for MI in the IPL over the last two seasons. Given the complete confusion over his bowling status, franchisees will be unsure of spending too much on him at the mega auction.
#2 He hasn't been in good form with the bat for a while
Even though he was not bowling, Team India played Hardik as a pure batter during the limited overs series against Australia last year. And Hardik did an excellent job, scoring 210 runs in three ODIs at an average of 105 and a strike rate of 114.75. He made a significant impact in the T20Is as well, smashing 78 runs at a strike rate of 156.
At that point, critics pointed out that India can think of playing Hardik as a pure batter in the limited-overs format until his body is ready to take the workload of bowling again. But the cricketer’s batting has gone downhill from there. Since the start of 2021, Hardik has scored 119 runs in six ODIs at an average of 23.80. In T20Is during the same period, he has 165 runs to his name from 11 matches at an average of 27.50.
Barring the one innings against Afghanistan, Hardik looked completely out of sorts in the T20 World Cup. He was below was in IPL 2021 as well, managing only 127 runs in 12 games at a strike rate of 113.39. Clearly, over the past 12 months, Hardik hasn’t been a force to reckon with as far as his batting is concerned.
#3 Hardik’s overall fitness has been a concern
Keeping his inability to bowl and poor form with the bat aside, his overall fitness has also been a concern for a while now. He did not feature in the initial couple of matches in the UAE leg of IPL 2021. Even in the T20 World Cup, although he was a constant fixture in the playing XI, he did not look a hundred percent.
Hardik has had his fair share of back-related issues, which even forced him to have a surgery a couple of years back. As per latest reports, Hardik has decided to skip the Vijay Hazare Trophy as he is undergoing an extensive rehabilitation program in order to regain his bowling fitness.
According to other reports, Hardik is also likely to announce his retirement from Test cricket owing to his back injuries so that he can focus on the two white-ball formats. As of now, there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding Hardik’s fitness, just as the case has been with his bowling. Given the circumstances, IPL franchises would be wary of overspending on him.