As Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene is not in a hurry to bowl Hardik Pandya in the IPL on Friday, the all-rounder could “fight” if he struggles, which could jeopardize his innings in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

After losing the first two games of the second leg of the tournament, Hardick played entirely as a batsman for MI.

With the selectors’ chairman saying that Hardik is perfectly fit to bowl at the Mark event starting in the UAE and Oman from October 17, questions have been raised over his selection in the Indian T20 World Cup squad.

But Jayawardene felt differently and said that the Indian team was in constant touch with the think tank regarding the Mumbai franchise Hardik.

“He (Hardik) has not bowled for a long time, so we are trying to do our best for Hardik. In Hardik’s case, we are in constant touch with the Indian team management,” he told reporters at a virtual press conference with Delhi Capitals on Saturday before the title holder’s next game.

“We see every day whether he bowls in the IPL or not. If we push him too hard, I think he might struggle.”

Since he underwent surgery again in 2019, Hardick has not bowled before. However, he bowled regularly in the five-match T20 series against England earlier this year, knocking over his arm once in the next three-match ODI series as part of his workload management.

But he did not bowl in the first phase of the IPL in India and was not even used in the UAE.

Mumbai, who have won just one of the four games played here, are enduring a second leg of a nightmare. The defending champions are currently out of the top four, finishing fifth with 10 points from 11 games.

The team led by Rohit Sharma will look to continue in the play-off race after their first win in the second round.

“It’s very important to win under the belt. How much we were charged at the start of the tournament. We did a lot of good things in our last game but still need a lot of improvements.

“We have to play the best cricket to stay in the top four,” Jayawardene said.

With people like Suryakumar Yadav seriously struggling with scores of 0, 8, 5, 3 in the UAE leg, setting a record as five-time IPL champions has given a big boost to batting.

“He (Surya) is a very important player for us but many cricketers including me are facing such steps. I understand that his vision is good and it is only about spending time in the middle,” the coach said.

Jayawardene agreed that the surfaces in the UAE this season were very different from last year and must be prepared with the T20 World Cup in mind.

“Surfaces are a little different than last year. We’re seeing extra grass. Probably, this is done to protect surfaces as the T20 World Cup is just three weeks away.

“The T20 World Cup is a neutral tournament, an ICC event so they are trying to get the best surfaces,” he said.

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