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Hardik Pandya is upbeat about returning to full swing with the ball for the T20 World Cup in October and wants to make sure "I bowl in all the games." Battling with a lower-back issue since the 2019 Asia Cup, Pandya has not been bowling regularly for a while now.
"I started bowling in the IPL and my focus is on the World Cup," Pandya told TOI Sportscast. "I want to make sure that I will be able to bowl in all the games at the [T20] 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."
With a shoulder niggle as well during this year's IPL, Pandya didn't bowl at all in the seven matches he played for the Mumbai Indians. However, he bowled a nine-over burst in the third and final ODI against England in March. In the five T20Is, he bowled a total of 17 overs with an economy rate of under seven runs per over. Even during the last IPL, he played solely as a specialist batter.
"For India, I have realised that my bowling brings a lot of difference because the balance changes," Pandya said. "In IPL, I am lucky to have a franchise where there is so much love that I was able to pick my batting there 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."
His workload management has been in focus in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup with the Indian team preserving Pandya the bowler for the world event. Though he was dropped for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand starting June 18 and the subsequent five-Test series against England, Pandya was included in the second-string India squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. The Indian team will be playing three ODIs and as many T20Is beginning July 13.
Pandya reiterated that the emphasis is on getting ready for the limited-over tour next month and eventually, the World Cup. He said that he decided to rest for three weeks to spend time with the family and "not think about the body" before the Sri Lanka tour.
"Whenever I play, I don't want to play at 50%. [When] I play, I will play at 100%," he said. "When I heard that we are going to Sri Lanka, I was planning to take rest for 3-4 weeks and just not do anything. I was on the road for seven to eight months and for those months, I was preparing myself for one-and-a-half years. Just before the lockdown, I made a comeback in the DY Patil (T20s in February) and then Covid hit. Then I had to remain fit because I wasn't at my best at that time.
"For the Sri Lanka tour, I will start my preparation from tomorrow (Saturday). Focus is on getting ready for Sri Lanka and then obviously, the World Cup."