All-rounder Hardik Pandya is in line to make his return to international cricket in the upcoming series in New Zealand, after recovering from a chronic lower back injury. However, he will need to prove his fitness first in two warm-up one day internationals between India A and New Zealand A. They will be played in the third week of January, just before the arrival of the senior India team in New Zealand.
Like international colleague Jasprit Bumrah, Pandya courted controversy by opting to conduct his rehabilitation from injury away from the National Cricket Academy (NCA), although it is understood that he asked permission from the BCCI to stay at home, arguing it was better for his mental well-being, and that it would aid his recovery faster. He is also thought to have kept the BCCI fully appraised as his progress.
It has been a busy few weeks for Pandya, who got engaged to Serbian Bollywood actress Natasa Stankovic on New Year.
He has also had his say on his infamous appearance on a chat show “Koffee with Karan” last year which saw both him and fellow international star KL Rahul land themselves in hot water because of sexist comments they made during the broadcast.
Despite issuing an apology to fans and teammates, they faced a raft of sanctions after the show. They included suspension by the BCCI, and being dropped from a three match ODI series against Australia.
In addition, the pair were hit heavily in the pocket, with the BCCI ordering the pair to pay a fine of Rs. 20 lakh each, and to each donate Rs. 1 lakh to the widows of ten paramilitary constables killed in the line of duty. In addition, they each had to donate RS. 10 lakh into a fund set-up to promote blind cricket in India.
Now Pandya has argued that they were blindsided by the programme makers, and had no idea that they were being set-up to make their indiscreet remarks on the show. The host of the chat show, filmmaker Karan Johar has also admitted feeling responsible for what happened, and is guilty about the repercussions the pair faced after their appearance.