IPL – Hardik confirms he will bowl for Mumbai in 2024 season

Hardik Pandya has declared himself fit to bowl as he returns to captain Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024. The allrounder said he has been fit since the start of this year, after suffering an ankle injury during the 2023 ODI World Cup that ruled him out of all cricket since October.

“Yes, I will be bowling,” Hardik said at a pre-season press conference in Mumbai on Monday. “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.”

Hardik had injured his ankle in his follow-through while bowling during India’s World Cup league match against Bangladesh in Pune. He said that his attempts to recover in time for the knockout stages had aggravated the injury.

“My injury, from day one, showed that I’m going to be out of the World Cup, but playing for India has always been special, especially in a World Cup. [So] we pushed [for] ten days – we knew that it’s an uphill task to be fit for the World Cup semi-finals or finals,” he said. “When we pushed, I kind of triggered my injury [further], and the injury became a little longer.”

Hardik: ‘I know that Rohit will always have a hand on my shoulder’

“I don’t think it will be awkward, or anything different, it will be a nice feeling because we’ve been playing [together] for ten years,” Hardik said of his relationship with Rohit and the new team dynamic. “I’ve played my whole career under him, and I know he’s going to have a hand on my shoulder always.

“He’s been traveling, he’s been playing. It’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen each other. Once he comes [and joins the MI camp], we’ll definitely have a chat.”

The Mumbai coach Mark Boucher said that Rohit freed from the responsibility of captaincy could be key for the team. “I think Rohit’s in fantastic form. I’ve been watching the games against England and the way that he’s hitting the ball, his movements into the ball are fantastic,” Boucher said. “So I’m really looking forward to Rohit going out and really expressing himself, without the captaincy on his shoulders.”

Rohit has had a tough time with the bat in recent IPL seasons, averaging 24.89 and going at a strike rate of 127.54 in 70 innings across the last five years. “If he has a great season for us, we’re going to be in the dying stages of the tournament,” Boucher said.

IPL 2023 was Boucher’s first season as head coach after replacing Mahela Jayawardene, and Mumbai finished fourth in the league stage before crashing out in Qualifier 2 – to Hardik’s Gujarat Titans.

Will MI start with four overseas players?

Mumbai went all out for overseas quicks to partner the returning Jasprit Bumrah this season, spending INR 14.40 crore (out of a remaining purse of INR 17.75 crore) on South Africa’s Gerald Coetzee and Sri Lanka’s Dilshan Madushanka and Nuwan Thushara. They also bought Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi in addition to the pre-auction trade of West Indian Romario Shepherd.

“If you have a look at all the [overseas] players we have selected, we’ve got plenty of options,” Boucher said. “I think this season we can choose conditions-related, we’ll have a look and see which players best suit different conditions.”

Boucher did hint at Mumbai possibly starting with three overseas players – something they did in three games last season – given the wealth of Indian batting options available for the first XI.

“There might even be situations where we only go in with three overseas players, without giving too much away, and maybe have one or two options as impact players on the bench, and have a look at the conditions and see what’s best going to suit us.”

Yash Jha is a multi-platform content producer and presenter for ESPNcricinfo

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