There is a special bond between Hardik Pandya and Mumbai Indians (MI). It’s been only five years since he’s playing for the franchise but it was with them that he shot into the limelight. He had done well in domestic cricket but it was the scouting team from MI that helped him earn an IPL contract and now, he’s one of the most important members of the side.
He is a floater in the batting line-up and has donned the finisher’s role really well. The seam-bowling all-rounder also chips in nicely with the ball. He has been excellent in all three departments over the last three seasons.
However, Pandya has been struggling with injuries quite a bit in the recent past. Hence, with the T20 World Cup in October, India may not want to take any chances with him. The Baroda all-rounder plays a vital role in the balance of the side.
Thus, here we look at three players who can replace Hardik Pandya in case he is not fit to play:
(Note – Only Indians can be picked as MI already have eight overseas players in their squad)
1. Manoj Tiwary
It hasn’t been easy for Manoj Tiwary in recent years. Despite performing consistently, he has failed to gain any sort of limelight. In fact, since the last couple of years, the Bengal player hasn’t even been able to land an IPL contract. He has kept his base price as low as INR 50 lakhs and yet, hasn’t found any buyers.
However, Tiwary has been in the news for his interviews and bold statements about his rejections. But he also made his bat to do the talking as he scored a maiden triple ton in first-class cricket. Tiwary was constantly getting starts throughout the season across formats but couldn’t convert. He cashed in this time and made it big.
Not only because of this triple ton, but Tiwary is also a handy customer lower down the order. It was only in 2017 that he played a crucial role in helping Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) reach the final. He donned the finisher’s hat beautifully and scored 324 runs at a strike-rate of 137.29 in that season. He was discarded only after five games in 2018 and never returned. Hence, Tiwary could be a decent pick and the small boundaries at Wankhede might suit him as well.
2. Stuart Binny
There aren’t as many seam-bowling all-rounders going around in the Indian domestic cricketing circles. There was a time when Stuart Binny was backed in international cricket but he couldn’t make it big. He’s been around for close to 17 years now and is an experienced campaigner.
The Bangalore-born all-rounder can open the bowling and move the ball around. He can tonk the ball a long way as well and is a very useful player with the bat as well. Binny may feel like a surprising pick to replace Pandya but he is near like-for-like.
Moreover, he’s been in excellent form across formats this season. He has scored 289 runs at an average of 48.16 and a strike-rate of 80.27 in the Ranji season. Meanwhile, Binny was Nagaland’s leading run-getter in the Vijay Hazare (254 runs at a strike-rate of 103.25) and also fared well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali.
3. Shahrukh Khan
It is no secret that Mumbai Indians (MI) have a fabulous scouting team and they unearth some exciting and talented players. Every season, they throw up a surprise and it won’t be a surprising move if they pick Shahrukh Khan as a replacement player for Hardik Pandya. Shahrukh may have lost out on form in the recent past but he can be very useful in the lower middle order.
The Tamil Nadu player was excellent in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He scored 244 runs at an average of 48.80 and a strike-rate of 125.77. The 24-year-old couldn’t use his opportunity in the Syed Mushtaq Ali but his T20 credentials are good too. He has been very good in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) for the last couple of seasons.
Hence, Shahrukh can be the finisher Mumbai Indians are looking for to replace Hardik Pandya (if he’s unfit and unavailable). Those are big shoes to fill but Shahrukh could emerge as a dark horse.
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