Five-time IPL champion Zaheer Khan has backed all-rounder Hardik Pandya to make a comeback to the Indian setup. Khan revealed that the Gujrat-born all-rounder is working on regaining full fitness.
Since his back surgery in 2019, Hardik has been cautious about bowling in competitive cricket. His batting form has also taken a dip since then. The 28-year-old was last seen in action during India's dismal campaign at the T20 World Cup 2021.
However, as he has established himself as a top IPL attraction due to his flamboyant performances, it came as a surprise when the Mumbai Indians decided not to retain him ahead of the IPL 2022.
Zaheer Khan, who is part of the Mumbai Indians management, revealed that retention calls aren't facile in nature and a number of angles are taken into consideration. While talking about difficult retention decisions, Zaheer Khan told TimesofIndia.com:
"Absolutely (Hardik can regain his full fitness). Hardik is very keen on that. The retention calls usually take into consideration various aspects and angles. The debates are usually very long (laughs). It is not an easy process when you set yourself up for a big auction and say goodbye to all players with a heavy heart with whom you spent a lot of time and energy."
"Maybe the wait is a little longer" - Zaheer Khan on India's search for a left-arm pacer
Zaheer Khan, who has over 600 international wickets to his name, has called for a left-arm fast bowler to be included in the Indian team. As one of the best left-armers of his era, Khan stated that left-arm quicks benefit any side they are a part of.
Khaleel Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat and Barinder Sran are among those who have tried and failed to cement their place in the Indian team. Meanwhile, T. Natarajan, who looked like an exciting prospect during India's tour of Australia, was plagued by recurring injuries.
Khan admitted that there are talents floating around the circuit but emphasized the importance of timing. According to the 43-year-old, there are fast bowlers who are performing well but they will have to wait for their opportunities. Khan said:
"There are plenty of good talents in the circuit. It is just about the timing. Maybe the wait is a little longer (laughs). If you have that kind of option (left-arm pace), it's a luxury. But you need to get someone ready to play at the highest level."
"If the current bowlers are performing well, then the others will have to wait for their turn and put up the performances to push the bowlers who are playing."
Zaheer Khan will be part of the Mumbai Indian think tank during the upcoming IPL 2022 mega-auction. The event will be a two-day affair and will be held in Bengaluru on February 12 and 13.