All eyes on Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar as South Africa ODI series begins
Written by Vishal Menon
| Dharamsala |

Updated: March 12, 2020 10:08:33 am


India gamers practice in Dharamsala on eve of the South Africa series (Twitter/BCCI)

When seen in isolation, the three-match ODI series between India and South Africa provides little context, particularly for the reason that shortest model of the sport has gained extra significance within the run-up to the T20 World Cup that’s simply seven months away. However, there’s rather a lot on the road for 2 key India gamers — all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar — whom are making comebacks after lengthy damage layoffs.

Pandya had been dominated out since September 2019 with a again damage. Bhuvneshwar suffered a facet pressure in July 2019, recovered, and was included for the T20I series in opposition to West Indies final yr. But the Uttar Pradesh bowler broke down once more, this time as a result of a groin damage, following which he underwent a sports activities hernia surgical procedure. Over the final two months, he has spent appreciable time on the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, the place he underwent a rehabilitation programme.

Both Pandya and Bhuvneshwar know that this brief series assumes utmost significance for his or her respective careers. Robust performances in opposition to the Proteas won’t solely get them again into the groove, but in addition serve as a confidence-booster with the Indian Premier League beginning later this month and the T20 World Cup later within the yr.

Pandya attended an optional practice session, the place he bowled at full tilt for near half an hour, to indicate that the issue together with his again is a factor of the previous. A short while later, when he turned as much as bat, he despatched everybody scampering for canopy together with his belligerent hitting. From the surface, it regarded just like the all-rounder had hit his straps. It’s not as if he’s coming into this series completely chilly. In truth, on the DY Patil T20 match in Mumbai final week, the 26-year-old smashed a 55-ball unbeaten 158, which included 20 sixes. That innings got here on the heels of a 39-ball 105 two days earlier.

Captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri will breathe an enormous sigh of aid after Pandya’s return. He provides balance to the playing XI as a seam-bowling all-rounder. His sharp, incisive medium pacers give Kohli the cushion to play 5 real bowlers, and his big-hitting prowess the flexibleness to utilise him both as a finisher in massive chases, or prop him up the order to spice up the run fee whereas setting targets. In essence, Pandya’s success within the two roles would clear up the dual problems with the shortage of batting depth and a top quality fifth bowler, one thing that got here to the fore throughout the ODI series in New Zealand. In Pandya’s absence, the workforce administration experimented with the likes of Vijay Shankar and Shivam Dube, with little success, since neither Shankar nor Dube possess Pandya’s potential to change a match by bowling, batting or athleticism on the sector. Simply put, Pandya brings vitality and dynamism to this workforce.

The all-rounder couldn’t have requested for a greater venue than the scenic HPCA Stadium to make a comeback. He may have fond recollections of the bottom, the place he made his ODI debut in October 2016 in opposition to New Zealand. Back then, neither the sense of event nor the large stage appeared to rattle Pandya. He bagged three wickets that day to stroll away with the Player of the Match award.

READ | To keep rains away in Dharamsala, HPCA officials pray to Snake God

Like Pandya, Bhuvneshwar is an important cog in India’s limited-overs plans. To know the way arduous it’s for a pacer to make a comeback after an damage, he must look no additional than Jasprit Bumrah, who has not fairly regarded the irresistible power he was after recovering from a stress fracture within the decrease again on the finish of final yr. Bumrah’s lacklustre performances in New Zealand — he went wicketless within the three ODIs earlier than discovering some his rhythm within the closing Test in Christchurch — are a helpful case research.

Ahead of the series opener, Bhuvneshwar opened up on his insecurities as a bowler coming back from an damage. “It’s difficult to maintain your pace when you’re returning from an injury since the possibility of getting injured again remains at the back of your mind. The best option is to play matches like I did before returning (he also played in the DY Patil T20 tournament). In doing so, you gain confidence from playing matches before stepping it up,” he reasoned.

Bhuvneshwar can be relishing the prospect of sharing the brand new ball with Bumrah once more. For a quick time, the 2 had solid an incredible partnership collectively, with their vastly contrasting bowling types. Bumrah together with his slingy, unorthodox motion and Bhuvneshwar together with his swing made it a match-winning mixture.

Bhuvneshwar’s return comes at a time when the arrogance of India’s famed tempo assault appears to have taken a success. Mohammed Shami regarded jaded, whereas Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur conceded lots within the series in New Zealand. However, like Pandya, Bhuvneshwar won’t thoughts bowling at Dharamsala. It’s a venue that tends to help swing, and if stars align, he may very well be fairly a handful on this pitch.

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