Defending champions Chennai Super Kings locked horns with the Gujarat Titans at MCA Stadium in Pune on Sunday. The Super Kings were shocked when GT skipper Hardik Pandya didn’t come at the time of the toss and instead came face to face with Rashid Khan. It was reported later on that Hardik was suffering from some groin issues and the management decided not to risk his physical fitness as they are facing a long tournament.
Hardik has missed some matches due to the few injuries that he sustained in the past. Although the all-rounder has performed magnificently during the ongoing IPL season, many are now thinking about his fitness issues especially now because of his exclusion due to injury.
Former Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar gave his two-cents on Hardik’s physical condition and indeed gave the all-rounder some advice about it a few years ago. He also mentioned Jasprit Bumrah, although Bumrah was not as injury-prone as Hardik.
Akhtar recalled his meeting with both Hardik and Bumrah in Dubai. In a talk with Sportskeeda, Akhtar said he gave advice to Jasprit and Hardik on how to improve their game as players and fast bowlers. He recalled that back then, both players were very lean and noted the absence of strong back muscles.
“I had told Jasprit Bumrah in Dubai and even Hardik Pandya. They were lean like birds. They didn’t have back muscles,” Akhtar said. “I touched his (Hardik) back, muscles were there but very lean. So, I warned him that he would get injured. But he said that he has been playing a lot of cricket. He got injured in the same match.”
Hardik has shown incredible form with both the bat and the ball since his return and was considered the best batsman for the Titans in the ongoing season. Hardik has also improved his bowling during the rehab and has become consistent at over 140 km/h. He was also doing a good job leading his team.
Akhtar also has good words for Hardik’s recent performance in the IPL and believes that the all-rounder has the potential to become the biggest brand in Indian cricket.
“Hardik Pandya can be the biggest brand in Indian cricket. He wants to be recognized as one of the key cricketers of India,” he added.
But the Gujarat Titans managed to defeat the defending champions in an exciting match, which means that Hardik’s absence didn’t really hurt his team. The Titans are leading the points table, having five wins from six matches. It’s still unknown whether Hardik will be back though.