Former India cricketer Saba Karim has questioned the inclusion of all-rounder Hardik Pandya in the Indian squad for the ICC T20 World Cup scheduled to commence in the UAE and Oman next month when there is a question mark on his fitness.
Pandya has also missed Mumbai Indians' first two matches in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Dubai and one is not sure when the five-time IPL champions, who are struggling to qualify for the Play-offs this season, will field him.
In fact, Mumbai Indians' bowling coach Shane Bond has refused to give a deadline as to when Pandya will be able to play an IPL match.
The Indian cricket board too has been cautious about increasing Pandya's workload ever since he returned from a back surgery last year. He has hardly been given the ball even though chief selector Chetan Sharma had asserted at the time of announcing the ICC T20 World Cup squad that the all-rounder was perfectly fit to bowl in the shortest format.
"One thing is clear, Hardik Pandya is a big player for the Indian team. But the question is when he was selected in the Indian team, was he fit at that time. If he was fit at that time, then his selection is justified. He is not played the two matches so far for Mumbai (Indians), so when was he injured. Did it happen during the Indian team selection or while preparing for IPL? It is important to explain these things," the former India team selector said on the YouTube show Khelneeti.
Following Mumbai Indians' seven-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders on September 23, Bond had said, "Hardik's training well. He's been close to playing. We're obviously balancing the needs of our team and the needs of Team India as well. It's the one thing that this franchise does really well is look after its players with an eye not only to win this competition but an eye to the World Cup that's coming up as well. Hopefully Hardik can be back for the next match and as I said he's going pretty well."
But Saba Karim said, "If he was carrying an injury, then why was he selected in the national team? Generally, the rule is that if you are not fit, you have to go to NCA (National Cricket Academy) to prove your match fitness. Only then are you available for selection."
Following MI's defeat to CSK in the first match of the UAE leg, chief coach Mahela Jayawardene had said that Pandya had been kept out as he was having a "little niggle". "Hardik was training, had a little niggle, so again precaution, we thought, let's just give him extra days to see how things are, but nothing serious," the MI head coach had said.