India all-rounder Hardik Pandya ruled out of New Zealand Tests

Pandya faces a lengthy period on the sidelines as he fails to recover from back surgery

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  India bowler Hardik Pandya in action during day three of the 4th Specsavers Test between England and India at The Ageas Bowl on September 1, 2018 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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India all-rounder Hardik Pandya was on Saturday ruled out of the two-match Test series against New Zealand as he continued his recovery from a back injury.

Pandya had undergone surgery on his lower back in October and hoped to join the national team midway during the ongoing New Zealand series.

However, Pandya has failed to regain his fitness in time and the Indian cricket board said the 26-year-old will continue his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.

The all-rounder was initially selected for the ongoing India 'A' tour of New Zealand but failed a fitness test. As things stand, Pandya faces a lengthy period on the sidelines.

“He travelled to London and was accompanied by NCA head physio Ashish Kaushik for a review by spinal surgeon Dr James Allibone. Hardik will be under rehab at the National Cricket Academy until he regains full match fitness,” the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a statement.

India play two Tests against the Kiwis in Wellington and Christchurch starting February 21 after a three-match ODI series. Given the seriousness of the injury and lack of clarity over Pandya's fitness, the all-rounder's realistic target is to get fit in time for the Indian Premier League (IPL).

However, the IPL starts on March 29 and since the all-rounder has been deemed unfit to play for India until the beginning of March, it means Pandya will struggle to be fully fit for the rigours of IPL.

His fitness is crucial to the balance of the Indian team in all formats, and especially in T20 cricket. His seam-bowling and lower-order power hitting are invaluable and Virat Kohli is struggling to find the right balance in his absence.

But since the Indian team has already made an error in planning his return, they will be extra cautious about Pandya's return as and when he is deemed fit to play.