Hardik Pandya was stretchered off the field for an "acute lower back injury" during play against Pakistan on Wednesday in Dubai. He clutched his back during his followthrough in the 18th over of Pakistan's innings before lying motionless. Initially suspected to be a case of cramps because of dehydration, he was taken off on a stretcher on physio Patrick Farhart's advice. Pandya had bowled 4.5 overs for 24 runs uuntil that point. Ambati Rayudu was summoned to bowl the one remaining delivery.
"Hardik Pandya has an acute lower back injury. He is able to stand at the moment and the medical team is assessing him now," a BCCI official confirmed.
While a proper medical bulletin is awaited, it left India with the prospect of having to employ a sixth proper bowler in Kedar Jadhav, who is also returning to full fitness from a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for almost the entire IPL season and India's England tour that followed.
Pandya's potential injury could be the latest in a long list of concerns for the Indian team management. As things stand, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has just returned to full fitness from a back injury that flared up during the IPL. After having missed the England tour, he returned to competitive cricket during the quadrangular series for India A late last month. India's first-choice Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha is also recuperating from a shoulder injury that could keep him out of action for at least another four months.
Pandya has played in 44 matches across formats for India over the last 12 months, with only Rohit Sharma having played more with 46 games. Pandya's recent workload has been among the heaviest for any Indian player on this tour - he played a full IPL season, and missed only one game across formats on India's tour of England, which ended just over a week before Wednesday's game against Pakistan.
If Pandya's injury is deemed serious enough for him to miss the remainder of the Asia Cup, India may struggle to find a like-for-like replacement. The closest contender currently is Tamil Nadu's Vijay Shankar, who was picked in Pandya's place for the Nidahas Trophy earlier this year. But he is just coming off a left hamstring injury that forced him to miss the quadrangular series for India A last month. He has, however, been picked to captain Tamil Nadu for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, India's domestic 50-over competition.