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‘I’ve been fit since January but…’: Hardik Pandya reveals why he didn’t return to Team India after WC injury recovery

Hardik Pandya hasn’t played any games since hobbling off the field during India’s 2023 World Cup match against Bangladesh in October.

Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya has declared himself fit to bowl during the impending 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) season, implying that he will accompany the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Gerald Coetzee in the pace department after the five-time champions incurred a blow with injured Dilshan Madhushanka to miss the first half of the season while Jason Behrendorff was ruled out of the tournament. Hardik revealed that he has been fit since January, having recovered from the “freak injury” he incurred during the 2023 ODI World Cup, before explaining why he had not returned to Team India action after rehabilitation.

Hardik Pandya hasn’t played any top level cricket since sustaining the injury in the World Cup group stage match.(AP)

Speaking to the press on Monday ahead of the start of the IPL 2024 season for Mumbai Indians, Hardik said that his ankle injury, suffered during India’s fourth league game in the World Cup, had nothing to do with his past injuries or his fitness before revealing that he became fit in January. The all-rounder, however, did not join the Indian side because the team were already in the midst of their home T20I series against Afghanistan, and with Hardik not in the fray for a return to Test action, there were no other international fixtures which he could participate in.

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“Yes, I will be bowling. My injury in [the] World Cup was a freak injury. It had nothing to do with my past injuries, it had nothing to do with my fitness. When I got fit, the Afghanistan [T20I] series had just started [in January]. I’ve been fit since then, but there were no games to play,” he said.

Pandya will play top level cricket for the first time since that match against Bangladesh in October last year when he takes the field as the Mumbai Indians’ new captain on on Sunday against his former team Gujarat Titans. The all-rounder had tried to stop a shot from Litton Das off the third ball of the ninth over unsuccessfully and ended up twisting his ankle. While it had initially looked like the physio had patched it up and he was ready to bowl the next ball, Pandya couldn’t do it and that led to he rare occurrence of Virat Kohli taking the ball in his hands and bowling out the rest of the over.

“When it happened I had no clue how bad it was,” Pandya said in a press conference about the injury. “When I went in for scans, initially it just showed that it was just a niggle. But as a couple of hours progressed it showed the real picture as my ankle swole up. Straightaway the next day I went to NCA to make sure that I speed up my process to come back. We tried every day to make sure that I was available for the World Cup. We then had to take a call on the 12th day and the question was whether I wanted to represent India at 50 percent, the answer was no. India deserves better than that, I myself won’t be able to justify me coming back.

“From there the journey of my rehab started. The focus was to make sure I come back as soon as possible. But with freak injuries like these, you need to give time. It doesn’t go away with something like physiotherapy, the body needs to recover naturally,” he said.


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