• MI won’t rush Hardik Pandya back, says bowling coach Shane Bond
  • We’re hopeful to have Hardik back for next match, says Bond
  • Mumbai Indians will face Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday

Hardik Pandya’s absence from Mumbai Indians playing XI for the last two Indian Premier League (IPL) matches has raised questions about his fitness, as the star all-rounder is being picked by Indian selectors for the upcoming T20 World Cup to be held in UAE and Oman, later this year.

Pandya, who has hardly bowled ever since returning to action after back surgery last year, is yet to be featured in the Mumbai Indians squad so far.

However, Mumbai Indians bowling coach on Thursday asserted that the all-rounder is training well and hopefully he will be back for the next match. Mumbai Indians will face Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday.

“Look, Hardik is training well, like Rohit. He is getting closer to playing. We are obviously balancing the needs of our team with the needs of Team India as well,” Bond said at the post-match press conference when asked about Hardik’s status.

“The one thing that this franchise does very well is look after its players with an eye on not only to try and win this competition but also on the T20 World Cup that’s following on,” said the former New Zealand speedster.

“We are hopeful that Hardik will be back for the next match. As I said, he has trained today and trained pretty well by all counts.”

Bond backed the team management’s decision to not play Hardik in the first two matches.

“We are obviously desperate to put him back out on the field. But like anything, you have to balance everything up, you have to also consider what the player wants,” he said.

“There’s also no point rushing him back to get injured to miss the rest of the tournament when we may have a chance to win it.

“I think we are doing the right thing and hopeful (that) we will get him back shortly and he’ll have an impact on the back-end of the tournament and get us into the playoffs and hopefully win the tournament from there.”

Mumbai Indians suffered a seven-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday in their IPL game. It was after their 20-run loss to Chennai Super Kings in the first game after resumption.

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