Hardik Pandya’s absence from an IPL 2021 contest for the second game in succession was a big talking point on Thursday night.
Mumbai Indians fell to a seven-wicket defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders.
With Hardik set to be India’s primary all-rounder for the T20 World Cup, which is less than a month away, Hardik’s fitness concerns could well be a cause for concern for India’s squad. Without conceding too much about the exact nature of Hardik’s injury - we know he has a chronic back injury ever since getting injured during the 2018 Asia Cup - Mumbai Indians bowling coach Shane Bond admitted the franchise is not pushing Hardik back into the field since it’s concerned about India’s T20 World Cup chances.
Full transcript of Bond’s post-match virtual interaction :
Q. How concerning is Mumbai Indians’ middle-order form? It’s continued to underperform even after the resumption of the league.
A. That’s a fair comment. If you look at our team, in general, we have been operating at around 80 percent. The last game we played, the first six overs we controlled and got ourselves in a position to control the game but as you rightly said, that middle order haven’t really kicked in and got going. We talk a lot about someone kicking through the back-end of the innings so the batting order can play around him and we just haven’t been able to do that. Once again we found ourselves with a score that was sub-par. The one thing we do know is that we have got a quality batting line-up. We have got good surfaces over here, good surfaces throughout this tournament so hoping that the tangle can be solved pretty quickly. We need to because we’re getting to a stage where we need to start winning games pretty quickly.
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Can you give us a few details about Hardik Pandya’s niggle? Can you spell out the nature of the injury?
Look, Hardik’s training well, like Rohit. He trained today. He is getting closer to play. We are obviously balancing the needs of our team with Team India as well. The one thing that this franchise does really well is look after its players with an eye on not only to win this competition but also on the T20 World Cup that’s following on. Hopefully, Hardik will be fit for the next match. As I said, he has trained today and trained pretty well by all counts.
Has there been a directive by the BCCI to manage his workload?
It’s not a hard directive. I think one thing you want to do with players in your team is you’ve got to duly care for them and to look after them. We are obviously desperate to put him back out on the field and we were desperate to put him out there tonight as well. But you have to also consider what the player wants. One thing our franchise does is look after its players. There’s also no point rushing him back to get injured to miss the rest of the tournament when we may have a chance to win it. I think we are doing the right thing and hopeful we will get him back shortly and he’ll have an impact on the back-end of the tournament and get us into the playoffs and hopefully win the tournament from there.
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Do you think Rohit’s dismissal was the turning point against KKR?
I don’t think so. I think we were in a position really to accelerate the game, make the right decision. The first six overs went exceptionally well for us, 56 for none. Probably the next two overs cost us a little bit, I think we got seven from two overs, that sort of suck the momentum out from our innings. 10 wickets in hand, you would expect our skipper to take a little risk but unfortunately got out. What you’re relying on is for someone else coming in and picking up the momentum is what we haven’t been able to do. That was the case again today. Obviously, Polly had a little bit of a cameo but it’s a lot to ask someone to consistently score 13 or 14 an over for long. I think it was a 175-180 kind of wicket and we were well short of the score. And KKR bowled beautifully, bowled disciplined and then came out and really put us under pressure with the bat and dominated the game and they really deserved to win.
Do you think middle and death-bowling is a concern for Mumbai Indians?
I don’t think so. If you look through the tournament, our bowling group’s done a pretty good job. The wickets were tough when we played in Chennai. We defended 130 or 150 a couple of times. The first game (in UAE), we put in a pretty good performance. A couple of big overs cost us but overall we thought we kept them to a score that we thought was a bit below-par but couldn’t really chase it. Today, they played well. You have to give them credit. They were positive, put us under pressure. We bowled some balls that by our standards weren’t good enough. You can say that they put pressure on us and we weren’t good enough to respond. Look, we have won four of the last six tournaments on the back of some brilliant performances. We will improve, I am sure, over the next few outings. I am not concerned. We were just outplayed today but expect a lot better from us in our next game.