IPL 2020: Hardik Pandya will bowl soon for Mumbai Indians - Zaheer Khan

Zaheer, Mumbai Indians' director of cricket operations, says Hardik is very keen to start bowling.

Mumbai Indians all-rounder, Hardik Pandya. - AP

IPL 2020 is Hardik Pandya’s first high-profile tournament since the T20I series against South Africa in September last year, the long layoff due to a back surgery, but since he hasn’t bowled a single delivery this season for Mumbai Indians, questions on his fitness linger.

Zaheer Khan, Mumbai Indians’ director of cricket operations, is hopeful that Hardik will be bowling soon.

“We are all expecting him to bowl. He is someone who really changes the balance of any side when he is bowling. He understands that but we have to listen to his body. That is some conversation we have been having in consultation with the physios,” Zaheer said on the eve of Mumbai Indians’ crucial fixture against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

“We are looking forward for [Hardik] to bowl and he is very keen and really wanting to. We just have to wait and be patient and listen to his body. At the end of the day, for any bowler, injuries play a huge role. We are happy that he is there as a batter, with full fitness – so that’s the exciting part. Hopefully, you will see him bowl soon,” the former India pace ace said.

The dew factor

Over the last one week there have been debates over the dew factor in the United Arab Emirates. However, Zaheer thinks otherwise. “So far in the tournament, dew has not been that big a factor because the matches are starting early. That’s something which is working well for the bowlers. Few games might see some dew coming in – which the bowlers are now used to. They are experienced enough to understand what are the things needed with the wet ball and how to manage that,” Zaheer said.

“We have seen some of the bowlers, in practice also, using some water on the seam so that the seam is slippery and adjust their length accordingly. So, these are the usual practices which go on in preparation if you have to tackle the situation like heavy dew on the outfield,” he added.

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Asked whether some teams who are bowling first are deliberately stretching their innings to make use of the dew factor, Zaheer said: “There are rules and regulations in place. You can’t stretch the game beyond a certain point, your captain will get fined, your team will get fined. And for that eventually the captain may have to sit out for a game. I don’t see that as a tactic used by any of the teams.”

“It’s just part and parcel of the game where you have to deal with the natural obstacles that come in and dew is something which everyone has been pretty experienced in dealing with. So, that’s something teams discuss about with regards to the dew, but I don’t see it as a huge factor,” he added.

Royal Challengers Bangalore may be coming off a big defeat – it went down to Kings XI Punjab in its previous match – but the Mumbai Indians camp wasn’t prepared to dwell on it too much. “Usually we go about our business and prepare for each and every game – yes, according to the opponent but also keeping our strengths in mind. That’s what we will be focusing on,” Zaheer said.

‘Freedom of expression’

“We know in this format particularly, on given day, any team can beat any team. That’s something you have to say on top. So, RCB what kind of form they are coming in – we are not looking at it. We are looking at going out there and playing our best cricket. We know if we stick to our strength and live to our expectations, we will do well.”

Asked whether the team’s bowling in death is yet to be tested, Zaheer said: “You have a lot of experience, when you look at someone like Trent Boult, he has played so much international cricket. He has played in so many different conditions, that experience matters a lot, he is a world-class bowler and so is James Pattinson, and Bumrah has been phenomenal in-depth overs, he carries that weight of backend of the innings on his shoulders. So, that is something which always provides great strength to the bowling unit.”

“As far as death bowling is concerned, we have pretty good plans in place with regard to different opposition and batters. It is about going out there and having that freedom of expression, which we really believe in. You have to go with the game and you have to be proactive with regard to that, when you see the names which you are discussing, our job becomes easier, because we know that this guy is an experienced campaigner. He has the ability to absorb the pressure in the middle and be proactive.”

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