Pandya was initially chosen in India's 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup as a batting all-rounder. However, with uncertainties about his ability to roll his arm over, the Indian selectors even had to bring in Shardul Thakur at the expense of Axar Patel to beef up the seam-bowling department.
Gautam Gambhir has highlighted that Hardik Pandya needs to prove his bowling fitness in the two warmup encounters to make Team India's starting XI. He made the following observations while previewing the upcoming T20 World Cup during a discussion on the Star Sports show - Game Plan. The former Indian opener said:
"For me, Hardik Pandya gets into India's playing XI only if he does proper bowling in both warmup games, not only in the nets. There is a huge difference between bowling in the nets and against quality batsmen like Babar Azam and that too in the World Cup."
The former India opener added that Hardik Pandya should not just be rolling his arm over but needs to be bowling at his best. Gambhir said:
"He has to bowl in the practice matches and the nets, and he has to bowl 100 percent. If you are thinking that you will come and bowl just at 115-120 kph, I will not take that risk."
Hardik Pandya has been bothered by multiple injuries lately. The seam-bowling all-rounder did not bowl a single delivery for the Mumbai Indians (MI) during both legs of IPL 2021 and even missed a couple of games due to fitness issues.
"Hardik Pandya's form is probably a massive concern" - Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir added that he would opt to play Ishan Kishan ahead of Hardik Pandya if the latter is playing only as a specialist batsman. He reasoned:
"If I have to go with just five bowlers, then I will pick Ishan Kishan ahead of Hardik Pandya on current form. If you are going with five proper bowlers and six batsmen, Hardik's form is probably a massive concern. Forget about the bowling, with the bat as well."
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Hardik Pandya had a dismal IPL 2021 with the bat for the Mumbai Indians. The big-hitter scored just 127 runs in the tournament at an underwhelming average of 14.11 along with a below-par strike rate of 113.39.
Q. Should Hardik Pandya be part of India's playing XI if he is not fit to bowl?
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