3 ways India can balance the side without Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya suffered an injury to his left ankle while bowling against Bangladesh in Pune on Thursday (October 19). The talismanic all-rounder couldn’t continue bowling despite being taped by the physio. While Rohit Sharma has confirmed the injury is not significant, India might still have to rest Hardik for a few games in the tournament.
Hence, we explore the combinations India can go with in case Hardik Pandya doesn’t get fit in time.
Suryakumar Yadav + Mohammed Shami
Hardik Pandya’s value can be gauged by the fact that the team needs two different kinds of players to fill his void. The best move will be to get away with the batting depth and simply slot in Suryakumar Yadav at No. 6 and include Mohammed Shami in place of Shardul Thakur. This move will ensure both departments strengthen equally, even if the batting depth shrinks.
While Suryakumar hasn’t set the stage on fire in ODIs, he showed encouraging signs in the Australia series before the World Cup. He is the ideal candidate for the No. 6 position, as he thrives when the only option left to him is attack. His inclusion will at least not weaken the batting unit.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Shami, who hasn’t played a game yet this World Cup, will ensure India get ten quality overs as well. He can share the new ball with Mohammed Siraj, crank it up in the middle overs and nail his yorkers in the death. Shami is a better white-ball bowler than ever, and Shardul has looked toothless at times this tournament.
Ishan Kishan + Shardul Thakur
India also have the option of going with Ishan Kishan in place of Hardik Pandya. However, if Kishan plays, they will have to shuffle the batting position of KL Rahul and demote him to No. 6. Ishan might not be suited at No. 6, given he is primarily an opener.
Ishan is unlikely to succeed while batting as low as No. 6. His inclusion will disrupt the positions of the set players. If Shardul Thakur plays, India will retain the batting depth but leave their bowling vulnerable.
Shardul will act as the fifth bowler, and this move can backfire badly. While he has the wicket-taking knack, Shardul is nowhere close to a 10-over bowler in ODIs. If Kishan plays, he will have to complete his quota unless Virat Kohli decides to roll his arms again.
Ishan Kishan/Suryakumar Yadav + Ravichandran Ashwin
Since we have already discussed Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, let’s focus on the role Ravichandran Ashwin can play in Hardik’s absence. If India includes one of Kishan or Suryakumar, Ravichandran Ashwin can play as the third spinner, replacing Shardul Thakur. Quality-wise, Ashwin is a much better bowler than Thakur in ODIs.
Ashwin’s recent improvements are also encouraging, and he can bowl all ten overs, unlike Thakur. While Ashwin is not as good as Ravindra Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav, India can at least expect more quality overs from him than Thakur. With Ashwin in the XI, India also retains the batting depth.
Ravichandran Ashwin might not be as attacking for a No. 7, but he can chip in with useful runs in the lower order. He provides a better value than Shardul overall. Hence, India can include him ahead of Shardul Thakur, with one of Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav grabbing the other slot.