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Hardik Pandya 'focusing only on cricket' despite Covid-19 entering IPL bubble

The allrounder has not played competitive cricket for almost a year due to a back injury

Hardik Pandya targets the leg side, Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers Hyderabad, IPL 2019, Mumbai, May 2, 2019

Hardik Pandya targets the leg side  •  BCCI

He has had injuries to contend with in the recent past, multiple members of the Chennai Super Kings squad have tested positive for the coronavirus, and for the first time the IPL is likely to be played without crowds. However, despite all of those concerns, Mumbai Indians and India allrounder Hardik Pandya remained unfazed and looked forward to returning to action after a lengthy break.
"More excited than nervous, because [for] a good ten months I have been training and looking forward to play, so the portion where the nervousness comes or the pressure comes has gone away," Pandya told ANI. "I am just more excited to be on the field and implement what I have worked on with regards to my training part, the practice sessions."
During India's Asia Cup match against Pakistan in September 2018, Pandya was stretchered off after sustaining a back injury. After being in and out of India's side due to the troublesome back, Pandya underwent surgery last year and didn't recover in time for the New Zealand tour in early 2020.
Pandya has worked on his fitness since and hoped for things to "turn out pretty well". "To be honest, I look after my back now as well," he said. "Throughout the Covid period and even before that, I was focusing to ensure that if without surgery I was at a level with my fitness, I had to be one level up."
The IPL has been put on alert after more than ten Super Kings members, including an India player, tested positive for Covid-19 in the UAE. Australia pace bowler Josh Hazlewood has also admitted to some "concern" about the Covid-19 outbreak in the Super Kings set-up ahead of joining the franchise for the 2020 IPL next month. Pandya, though, said that he is just focusing on following the protocols and his training.
"For me it is just simple," he said. "Follow what the health officials say and follow what the team management says. I let the professionals do their work and if they say that we should look after certain things, I think we should just follow that and be on track… So, we are only focusing on cricket right now because MI is taking care of the rest."
Will the absence of crowds affect him over the duration of the tournament? "It will be a different experience, but we have all played Ranji Trophy without fans and T20 cricket without fans," Pandya said. "Obviously the fans add to the cheering part and the support, but for us when we are playing, we don't see much difference."