Dubai: The Mumbai Indians boys led by Rohit Sharma will enter the Indian team hotel in Dubai on Tuesday. And as expected, all eyes will be on all-rounder Hardik Pandya as the team management would look to assess his progress with the team`s opening T20 World Cup game against arch-rivals Pakistan two weeks away.
Sources in the team management confirmed the MI boys will be moving into Th8 Palm on Tuesday (October 12). “Rohit and boys are coming in today. It would obviously be in focus how Hardik is progressing and that is no rocket science. But he should be good to go for the showpiece event,” the source said.
Asked if Hardik could actually go in as a finisher, the source said: “Well, that call obviously needs to be taken by the team management and with MS Dhoni coming in as a mentor, you do know the best call will be taken. But yes, you must realise the lack of big-match experience in the Indian middle-order, especially when it comes to handling high-voltage clashes like India-Pakistan.”
Interestingly, Hardik has done well against Pakistan not just in the 2017 Champions Trophy, but also in the 2019 World Cup in England. While he finished with an outstanding 76 off 43 balls in the final of the Champions Trophy against Pakistan, he scored a quickfire 26 off 19 balls and then picked two wickets with the ball in the World Cup game.
Sources in the team believe even though his bowling is a worry at the moment, he is the X-factor who can turn big games with the bat as well. “You are born with it. And Hardik is undoubtedly an X-factor, be it with the ball as we saw against Bangladesh in the last T20 World Cup, or with the bat as we have seen a number of times. You want such players in big-ticket events because they can win you games out of nowhere. If you ask me, he will be in the team and the physio will try and make him work his way to the bowling crease,” the source pointed.
The T20 World Cup will begin with the Round 1 Group B encounter between hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea on October 17, with Scotland and Bangladesh, the other teams in Group B, clashing in the evening match. Ireland, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and Namibia making up Group A will be in action in Abu Dhabi the next day, with Round 1 matches running till October 22.
The top two teams in each group will proceed to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, beginning on October 23. The first semi-final will be held in Abu Dhabi on November 10. The second semi-final will be hosted by Dubai on November 11. Both semi-finals have reserve days. The marquee clash of the tournament will take place in Dubai on November 14, Sunday, with Monday acting as the reserve day for the final.