Hardik Pandya likely to miss Afghanistan T20Is, IPL 2024

India’s premier seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been out of action since he twisted his left ankle while trying to stop a boundary in a ODI World Cup 2023 game against Bangladesh.

Hardik has a well-documented history of injuries that has caused him to miss a number of important assignments over the years. After the 2022 T20 World Cup, regular captain Rohit Sharma has not played the shortest format of the game for the ‘Men in Blue’. Hardik has led India in Rohit’s absence in T20Is. However, the Baroda all-rounder could not recover in time for India’s recent T20I assignments against Australia and South Africa.

Recent reports suggest that Hardik’s return to the cricket field is set for a long delay as the 30-year-old is in line to miss the home T20I series against Afghanistan in January and also the forthcoming IPL season.

“There is no update on Hardik’s fitness status as of now and one can say there remains a big question mark of him being available before the end of IPL,” a BCCI source said.

This will come as a huge blow for not only India, but also the Mumbai Indians. The five-time IPL champions drafted in Hardik from Gujarat Titans ahead of the IPL 2024 auction and made him the captain, replacing the legendary Rohit Sharma. Earlier this month, it was reported that Hardik will undergo a specially-curated rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.

India’s hunt for captain in Afghanistan series intensifies

The Asian giants are in for some head-scratching as they look to pick a captain for the three-match T20I series at home against Afghanistan. Suryakumar Yadav led the Indian team in the T20Is against Australia and South Africa, in place of the injured Hardik. The Mumbai batter would have been the obvious choice for the leadership role against the ‘Blue Tigers’. However, he twisted his ankle in the third T20I against the Proteas in Johannesburg, suffering a grade-II injury which has ruled him out until February.

Ruturaj Gaikwad, who led India to the gold medal in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, has broken his finger and been ruled out of the South Africa Test series. Ravindra Jadeja was the vice-captain when India faced South Africa in a three-match T20I series earlier in December. He could be given a chance to lead the side. However, the selectors would want to tread carefully in terms of managing his workload, as the Saurashtra all-rounder would have to play a key role in the five-match Test series against England right after the series against Afghanistan.

The first T20I between India and Afghanistan will be played in Mohali on January 11. The next two games will be played in Indore (January 14), and Bengaluru (January 17), respectively. India’s first Test against England commences on January 25, in Hyderabad.