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IPL: Hardik Pandya seeks player honesty with workload in focus

There will barely be a week’s gap between the T20 league and the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA

As is the case when there is a major tournament or series immediately after the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Indian team management will have its fingers crossed during the long-drawn T20 league, hoping that the national team players come out unscathed so that a full-strength squad can be fielded.

Mumbai Indians’ captain Hardik Pandya addresses a press conference.(AFP)

This time that concern will be over India’s preparation for the T20 World Cup to be staged in the West Indies and USA. With a likely gap of merely a week between IPL and the World Cup, India cricketers face the challenge of coping with the workload.

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IPL kicks off on Friday and is expected to go on until the final week of May. The World Cup starts on June 1 with India’s first game scheduled four days later.

While the workload of India’s core group of players during IPL will be crucial, franchises can’t be faulted for expecting their players to go all out, having paid hefty sums to them to turns out for their teams.

Hardik Pandya, the new Mumbai Indians captain, is among those whose fitness will be closely followed. He said the players must be honest with the team they are playing for.

“I have a firm belief that you should be playing (go all out) for the team you are playing for. You can have ambitions to play for the country or whichever team, (but) you should be honest to the team you are playing for. Right now, for my boys, the focus will be on IPL. To serve Mumbai Indians to the best of our ability. In that process, if someone gets a chance, I will be helpful.

But we won’t be focused on the (India) selection bit, if someone can make it or not make it. That goes in a selfish space,” Pandya said in a pre-IPL media conference on not losing sight of team interest with the T20 World Cup around the corner.

MI are packed with several players who will be key to India’s chances at World Cup. Besides all-rounder Pandya, MI’s line-up includes India skipper Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav — he is recovering after undergoing surgery in January for sports hernia — Tilak Varma and Ishan Kishan.

BCCI is yet to announce the full IPL schedule, but it is expected that the final will take place in the last week of May. India’s first game in the T20 World Cup is against Ireland on June 5.

If IPL runs until May end, its league phase is likely to end on May 19. That will decide which four teams make it to the playoffs.

The India players from the teams that don’t make it to the playoffs will likely be sent early to the USA. Those featuring in the knockouts will join them immediately after the tournament.

Even teams that don’t make the play-offs will play 14 matches. And to add to the stress on players, IPL’s home-and-away format involves a lot of travel with small gaps between the games.

MI coach Mark Boucher said ideally he would want his best players to be available all the time but would be accommodating if they need a break.

“My job is coaching Mumbai Indians. I will be a bit biased and say I would like my best players to be playing all the time.

However, I have a soft spot for the player. We always have player interest at heart. There are certain players who may be carrying niggles, which is why we have the medical staff to decide if we can push a player or not. A player can come to me and say I want a break or that I don’t want to have a break,” he said.

Pandya himself is returning after a long lay-off due to a freak ankle injury suffered during the ODI World Cup. On his recovery and decision to play in the DY Patil T20 tournament in the build-up to IPL, he said: “The tournament is closest to IPL. So, it challenges you as a player. I have no issues with my body. I plan to play all the games possible. I don’t think I have missed many

IPL games, anyway. It’s been five months of injury because the last two months there has been no cricket. Technically, I have been out for three months.”

Pandya said he would also be bowling in IPL.

Surya, the top-ranked India T20I batter, is yet to confirm his return date following surgery. “Surya is under the guidance of the Indian team and we are waiting on that. I don’t like to micromanage. We’ve a world class medical team. We will always have some fitness issues like other teams do,” Boucher said.


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