How do you replace someone like Hardik Pandya in the Indian XI? You can’t and should not even try to, it’s as simple as that.
The scarcity of quality seam-bowling all-rounders has always been India’s pain. India don’t have the luxury of Mitchell Marsh
(although not bowling in this World Cup), Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green in the country let
alone in their World Cup squad. So when something happens to Hardik, as it has now, they don’t have a like-for-like replacement.
Hardik is certain to miss India’s next match against New Zealand in Dharamsala on Sunday due to an ankle injury he suffered in the last
match against Bangladesh. He hurt his ankle while trying to field on his own bowling only three balls into his spell in Pune. He was in a lot
of pain and had to hobble off the field. BCCI confirmed that he won’t be travelling with the team to Dharamsala and instead,
will head straight to the NCA in Bengaluru to be under observation of the medical team.
The good thing though is that the scans haven’t revealed anything major
and the Indian team management is hoping to get him back before the England match in Lucknow on the 29th.
But what about the New Zealand match? What should India do?
Harbhajan Singh feels captain Rohit Sharma will have to make two changes to fill the gap of Hardik.
Since Dharamsala has offered more swing than any other venue in this World Cup, Harbhajan feels
it would be wise to pick a seamer – Mohammed Shami – instead of Ravichandran Ashwin,
an off-spinner. And at No.6 it should either be Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav, the chances of the latter higher because of his ability to finish games.
‘Pick Shami and either Kishan or SKY’: Harbhajan
“It’s a big issue for India if Hardik Pandya is not fit. He sets our combination
and if he doesn’t play then you will have to change it. You can either play Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav as a pure batter.
We are playing Shardul Thakur because of his all-rounder abilities. I think you should bring Mohammed Shami in his place as he can give you solid
10 overs,” Harbhajan told Aaj Tak.
This would be India’s biggest test in this World Cup. They have so far functioned like a well-oiled machine.
Jasprit Bumrah has got breakthroughs whenever the team has needed it, spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have been choking teams
in the middle overs to restrict them to below-par totals. While chasing, Rohit Sharma has been giving a huge headstart to India in the powerplay
while Virat Kohli has been making sure they reach home without a fuss. But New Zealand are in a purple patch of their own.
They sit on the top of the table – due to a higher net run rate – with four wins in as many games as India. And in Hardik’s absence,
India would have to go away from their preferred combination of eight batting options and six bowling options.
If Rohit follows Harbhajan’s advice and picks Shami in place of Shardul and replaces Hardik with Suryakumar, India will have a strong batting unit but only
till No.7. With Shami, Bumrah, Kuldeep and Siraj, they will have the longest tail. But do they have any option? Doesn’t look like.