Hardik Pandya is inching closer to his goal of bowling "in all games at the T20 World Cup", with his team-mate in Sri Lanka, Suryakumar Yadav, confirming that the allrounder has been sending down more and more deliveries in training ahead of the limited-overs series.
"He did bowl in the England series [at home earlier this year]. I was part of it - in all the T20 games, he bowled," Yadav said ahead of the series. "In the decider ODI also he bowled when the team was in a crunch situation, so it was good.
"I think that the team management and Hardik knew their responsibilities really well, so they were taking a call. Here, in the intra-squad game, he did bowl in the nets. He is bowling. It is his and the team management's call how they want to go about it. But yes, he is bowling and it is a very good sign."
Pandya was not picked for India's long Test tour of England, which included the World Test Championship final, as part of the long-term project to get him to full bowling fitness following back surgery. As Yadav pointed out, Pandya did bowl in some of the games against England, but not for the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2021, which was pushed back after 29 matches following reports of multiple Covid-19 cases among the teams.
"My bowling is related to my fitness. The fitter I get, the better it comes out. As a fast-bowling allrounder, I tend to get injuries. It is bound to happen and I am okay with it"Hardik Pandya
Pandya last played a Test in 2018, in England. His utility, particularly in overseas Tests, has been recognised but for that, he has to be in full bowling capacity. For now, Pandya is focussed solely on the T20 World Cup later this year.
"I started bowling in the IPL and my focus is on the World Cup," Pandya said in a chat with TOI Sportscast last month. "I want to make sure that I will be able to bowl in all the games at the World Cup. I am just trying to be smart and make sure that I don't miss that. On the bowling front, what matters is how fit I am.
"Even after my surgery, I didn't drop my pace. I was not able to drop my control. My bowling is related to my fitness. The fitter I get, the better it comes out. As a fast-bowling allrounder, I tend to get injuries. It is bound to happen and I am okay with it.
"For India, I have realised that my bowling brings a lot of difference because the balance changes. In IPL, I am lucky to have a franchise where there is so much love that I was able to pick my batting and make sure that for India, I am able to be at my best. I have to make sure I am fit to be able to bowl and if I bowl, that brings balance to the side."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo