Hardik Pandya’s performance in the India-South Africa T20I series will be crucial.© AFP

Hardik Pandya impressed all with his performance as the Gujarat Titans skipper in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022. He performed both with the bat and the ball to lead his team to the title in its maiden season. In the final against Rajasthan Royals, Pandya picked 3/17 in four overs and then scored a crucial 34. The all-round performance earned him the ‘Player of the Match’ award in the title clash. It also augured well for the Indian cricket team which will face South Africa in a five-match T20I series starting Thursday. However, Gujarat Titans coach Ashish Nehra has said that after a long IPL, it would be wise to not put Pandya under too much pressure, right at the start.

“Hardik Pandya is such a name, who is always in the news on whether he will bowl or not? My thought, from earlier times too, has been that Hardik Pandya is that type of player who can fit into any team just as a batter, in any format. I will say even in Test matches, with the kind of batting that he does. But right now, we are talking about T20s, if he bowls it gives extra benefit to the team,” Nehra said in an interview to Cricbuzz.

“The composition of the Indian team is such that they always look forward to him because none among the top-order batters bowl. So, sometimes, it has been seen that Hardik is your fifth bowler, so he has that pressure of bowling. If he is fit, he likes to bowl. But it would be better if every time he is not put under pressure to bowl those four overs. For that you have to play five specialist bowlers and Hardik Pandya becomes the sixth option.

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“I am not saying that Hardik Pandya can’t be the fifth bowling option. The kind of quality that he has he can be your second or third bowler too. But as an allrounder, he has also just returned from an injury, and after a long IPL if he is able to bowl four overs it would be great but if the build-up is done slowly it would be better. For that, India need to look closely on the playing XI.”

Pandya is back in the Indian cricket squad after the 2021 T20 World Cup and his performance will be closely watched.

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