Dharamshala, Oct 21: The notion has always been that a fit and in-form Hardik Pandya brings India the balance and skills it brings and craves for in white-ball cricket – an effective batter in the lower-order capable of providing finishing touches and a fast-bowling option who can land a significant impact in any phase of the game.
When Hardik left the field after suffering a left ankle injury against Bangladesh at MCA Stadium in Pune while trying to stop a boundary off his own bowling, the worst nightmare of the Indian team plus its passionate fans, who fell silent on seeing the all-rounder being attended to by the physio - seemed to be coming true – of not seeing him in action.
A day later, after India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets, the BCCI said Hardik will be resting and will not be traveling with the team to Dharamshala for its clash against New Zealand at Dharamshala on Sunday, with an expectation to be fit in time for the match against England on October 29 in Lucknow.
With Hardik’s services unavailable for clash against New Zealand, a formidable side with almost everyone in form, this is the huge challenge which is now staring in India’s face in their quest for a fifth straight win in the tournament. No matter what combinations they field at HPCA Stadium, they will be lacking in some aspect, which Hardik used to cover up.
“You may take this with a fist of salt if you like, but the truth is if any of your batters, be it Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli or KL Rahul, or any of your bowlers be it Mohammed Shami, (Mohammed) Siraj or (Jasprit) Bumrah has to sit out of a few matches for whatever reason, the balance of your team will not be affected.”
“The DNA of the team won’t change. But, currently there’s one player in the team whose exit from the playing XI changes everything and that’s Hardik Pandya. Because, Hardik bats in your top six. He’s your only batsman who bowls and bowls well. So, his injury has caused a lot of problems for India,” said Aakash Chopra, former India opener, on his ‘Aakashvani’ show on JioCinema.
As Hardik, who has picked five wickets in the tournament till now, hobbled off the field, India turned to its sixth bowling option Shardul Thakur to take over once Virat Kohli completed the all-rounder’s pending deliveries in the ninth over.
But Thakur was smacked for 30 runs in his first four overs and though his final figures read a 1-59 in nine overs, it did leave doubts over Indian team having enough trust in him for bowling a good spell of all ten overs against New Zealand in a seamer-friendly venue.
Even if Thakur is retained and fills in Hardik’s slot in bowling, there’s the batting option to be taken care of, which can be fulfilled with Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav coming in the eleven. In another scenario, Mohammed Shami can also come in, but that means India’s tail goes long.
With Dharamshala providing some help to spinners of late, it will be a radical move to leave out Kuldeep Yadav, who has been in prime form recently, to accommodate both Thakur and Shami, in a bid by India to assure themselves in batting depth and fast-bowling stocks.
If Ravichandran Ashwin comes in for Pandya, it brings another spin bowling option but with some batting assurance, though his average in ODIs in this aspect is below 20. India’s best-case scenario, though, is bringing either of Suryakumar or Ishan for Pandya and bring Shami in place of Thakur, then it can bring batting depth + five bowling options for whole innings.
With Mohammed Siraj yet to be at his effective best, Shami’s addition can be the assurance for India in fast-bowling department. “One option that they have is to play Suryakumar Yadav at No. 6. The other change that I see is Mohammed Shami may be brought into the side, so you see the balance will be affected,” added Chopra.
The Dharamshala clash may be seen as a one-off for India playing without Hardik as they aim to put their best foot forward against a New Zealand side which is also in rampaging form. But if they are to go past the Blackcaps, they need to solve the irreplaceable, but as of now, the Hardik-sized hole in their quest to achieve so. (IANS)