IPL 2021: If we push him too hard, he might struggle: Mahela Jayawardena on Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya has been playing for MI purely as a batter | BCCI/IPL

Mumbai Indians (MI) head coach Mahela Jayawardena has on Friday (October 1) opened up the possibility of playing Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder in the remaining games of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) in the UAE, as he is currently playing solely as a batter.

Ever since his return from back surgery in 2019, Hardik hasn’t been bowling as much as he used to bowl as an all-rounder, and even though he didn’t bowl in the first leg of the IPL 2021, he continues to be used as a batter in the ongoing second leg of the tournament in the UAE as well.

As Pandya has been playing for MI purely as a batter in the ongoing IPL 14, questions have been raised over his selection in India’s squad for the ICC T20 World Cup 2021. However, Jayawardena said they are trying their best to bring the all-rounder back on track.

However, the MI head coach has insisted that the team doesn’t want to push Hardik hard to bowl, as he might struggle and it could jeopardize his chances in the upcoming T20 World Cup 2021.

Jayawardena said during a virtual press conference: He (Hardik) hasn’t bowled for a long period of time, so we are just trying to do the best for Hardik. We are in constant touch with the Indian team management on Hardik’s case. Whether he will bowl in the IPL or not we will look on a daily basis. I feel at the moment if we push him too hard, he might struggle.”

MI will next take on Delhi Capitals in the ongoing IPL 2021 on Saturday, October 2 and the coach said they are aiming to play their best cricket to make it to the playoffs after winning last game against Punjab Kings (PBKS) to make a comeback in the tournament. The defending champions are currently fifth in the IPL 14 points table with 10 points and will look to earn 2 more on Saturday.

He continued, “Getting the win under our belt was very important. We are as charged up as we were at the start of the tournament. We did a lot of good things in our last game but still a lot of improvements needed. We will have to play our best cricket to make it to the top four.”

On the struggling batter Suryakumar Yadav, who has scores of 0, 8, 5, 3 in the UAE so far, the MI coach said: “He (Surya) is a very important player for us but many cricketer goes through such phases including me. I understand his focus is good and it’s just about spending time on the middle.”

Jayawardena also pointed out that the wickets in the UAE for the ongoing IPL 14 are quite different from last season and he feels the surfaces must have been prepared keeping in mind the T20 World Cup 2021 to be played in the UAE and Oman from October 17.

He signed off by saying, “The surfaces are slightly different from last year. We are seeing extra bit of grass. Probably, it is done to protect the surfaces as the T20 World Cup is just three weeks away. The T20 World Cup is a neutral tournament, an ICC event so they are just trying to get the best possible surfaces.”