Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar reckons that Gujarat Titans (GT) skipper Hardik Pandya’s lack of batting form may have something to do with him not bowling regularly in the ongoing IPL 2023.

He opined that the all-rounder bowled a lot of overs in the previous edition, and it also helped him get into the groove while batting. The cricketer-turned-commentator also suggested that Pandya should have come out to bat in the team’s final league match against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

Manjrekar made these remarks while speaking to ESPNcricinfo after GT’s 15-run loss to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday, May 23. He stated:

“He [Hardik Pandya] has lost a bit of form. Just imagine had he batted in the last game, he would have carried whatever that match form or match time into this game as well. Because he is a far more important batter than a Vijay Shankar.

“Just one question that comes to my mind, is Hardik Pandya a better batter when he is bowling as well? Last season he was bowling a lot, and that’s why his batting went to the next level.”

GT failed to chase down CSK’s 173-run target at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. The defending champions were bowled out for 157 runs. Pandya’s stay at the crease also proved to be a brief one, as he departed after scoring just eight runs.

Notably, Pandya hadn’t batted against RCB and Vijay Shankar was sent at No. 3. Manjrekar believes that it wasn’t the right move as the GT captain is a vital cog in the side’s batting lineup and he needed some form coming into the playoffs.

“Those were the two huge wickets” – Sanjay Manjrekar on the dismissals of Hardik Pandya and David Miller in Qualifier 1

Sanjay Manjrekar further stated that the dismissals of Hardik Pandya and David Miller put Chennai into the commanding position. He also pointed out that Pandya was undone because the ball stopped a bit before coming onto his bat and he eventually got caught at point.

The 57-year-old suggested that GT had the firepower to chase down CSK’s total. He mentioned that the Chennai-based side benefited because of the lack of dew and the nature of the surface, adding:

“The conditions didn’t change as I thought would happen, because second half, in the early evening, you see the ball turning for the spinners, and suddenly in the second half, nothing of that kind happens. Two crucial wickets, one of Hardik Pandya where the ball just stopped and he was caught at point, and David Miller, those were the two huge wickets.

“I still believe they had the batting and the ability to get a 170. Fortunately for CSK, heavy dew didn’t come in, or the pitch didn’t change too much, so the job became a little harder.”

The defending champions GT have one more chance of making it to the IPL 2023 final. They will play Qualifier 2 against the winner of the Eliminator between Mumbai Indians (MI) and Lucknow Super Giants (LSG).

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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