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AUS v IND: Hardik Pandya as batsman gives India options

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On a day India lost to Australia by a huge margin of 66 runs in the first ODI, it was Hardik Pandya’s valiant knock of 90 runs that shortened the deficit of the loss. Hardik Pandya played a sensible knock, scoring 90 runs in 76 balls at a strike rate of just under 120, not helping India over the line, but helping the team solve a puzzle they have been struggling to crack in recent times.

Hardik Pandya has been struggling with a back injury ever since the Asia Cup 2018. He underwent a surgery in October 2019 just after the ICC World Cup concluded in England. Pandya returned to international cricket for the first time in over 15 months. His last match was the semifinal loss against New Zealand at the ICC World Cup.

Also Read: Not Wanting To Rush, Hardik Pandya Ready To Bowl In ‘Most Important Games

He did not bowl a single delivery in the recently concluded IPL, and has stated that we will not rush his comeback and will take it step by step. “It is a process,” Pandya said when asked where he was with respect to a return to bowling. “I am looking at a long-term goal where I want to be 100% of my bowling capacity for the most important games. The World Cups are coming. More crucial series are coming.”

With Hardik Pandya slotting in the India team as a pure batsman, it leaves Kohli to stock up on the bowling department. However, Hardik Pandya demonstrated yesterday against Australia that he was good enough to play in the eleven, even if it is not as all rounder. Pandya became the fastest Indian batsman to reach 1000 runs in ODI cricket in his commendable knock against Australia.

Hardik Pandya rarely finds himself coming to bat around the 15th over of the match, but he used his opportunity well yesterday and stuck around for 25 overs before being caught by Mitchell Starc. At many times in the World Cup and the international series, Kohli has promoted Pandya to number 4, expecting a flurry of runs to end the innings. The all rounder has delivered on most days which includes some handy knocks at the World Cup.

One thing Hardik Pandya will have to work on if he is to play a number six role on a consistent basis is that he will have to curb his natural instincts at times and play according to the situation. Most of the times, it has been the case that Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli pile on the runs and Hardik Pandya’s role is to play his natural game towards the end of the innings and push India to a higher total.

Also Read: India Vs Australia ODI: Hardik Pandya’s Brilliant Knock Not Enough To Guide India Past The Finish Line

At times as we have seen in the series against New Zealand earlier this year, the Indian team finds itself in a spot of bother at times. This is when Hardik Pandya will have to step and curb his natural instincts if he has to play consistently in the team as a pure batsman.

In the first ODI match against Australia, it was the unavailability of a sixth bowling option that costed India the match. Yuzvendra Chahal was being taken to the cleaners, and the only bowler that stood out was Mohammed Shami who had figures of 3 for 59 in his 10 overs.

Will a lack of Part-timers hurt the Indian team going forward?

Hardik Pandya has already made it clear that he will not rush himself into bowling and he already has the World T20 in mind which is scheduled to be held next year in India. That leaves India with just 5 bowling options which are never enough in the modern game of cricket.

The question is who to drop if Kohli decides to go in with an all-rounder and does India have any all rounder in the squad who can fit in the current eleven. The answer to this million dollar question is that Virat Kohli cannot afford to risk a batsman in favor of a bowler. If Virat Kohli decides to open with Shikhar Dhawan and Kl Rahul which is highly unlikely, Hardik Pandya will have to slot in at number 5 and Ravindra Jadeja at number 6. This will expose the Indian tail starting from number seven.

Neither India possesses the services of Kedar Jadhav, who has been out of consideration for the Indian team nor do they have a handy all rounder in their current squad who can provide a decent amount of overs and do well with the bat. All said and done, Virat Kohli is likely to stick with the same team balance in the second ODI against Australia.