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‘You will need Kohli to chip in’: Hardik’s absence sparks India’s pre-WC fear | Cricket


‘You will need Kohli to chip in’: Hardik’s absence sparks India’s pre-WC fear | Cricket


Two months back, when Rohit Sharma was asked about the lack of part-time bowling options in India’s World Cup 2023 squad, contrary to the the abundance in such players in the triumphant 2011 team, the captain had jokingly responded to it saying, “Hopefully Sharma and Kohli can bowl some overs in the World Cup.” While he did later admit to the drawback as part of the same query, Rohit’s words, if going by the two practice sessions India have had so far in Lucknow ahead of the league-stage match against beleaguered England, are set to come true.

India's Virat Kohli reacts(REUTERS)
India’s Virat Kohli reacts(REUTERS)

In just over a decade, India have lost one of their most stand-out features in international cricket – the presence of part-time bowling options. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, and Suresh Raina all bowled regularly throughout their career with few even having decent numbers. The advantage of having such players is that it gives the captain the freedom to rotate his primary bowlers with ease and provide them that cushion as well. Such isn’t the case for India now.

The playing XI now comprises of five mainstay batter which includes the wicketkeeper, two all-rounders in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, with Ashwin as a third option, and four primary bowlers. This leaves India with six bowling options. The player that holds the utmost importance in this line-up, probably even more than Rohit and Virat Kohli, is Hardik. His improved return to white-ball cricket as an all-rounder has left India with possibilities aplenty to explore in the bowling department, but the moment you remove him from the XI, the team looks in a tad bit of disarray.

Batting at six and being the extra seamer, Hardik lends a critical balance to the playing XI. But with the all-rounder reportedly out till the end of the league stage with an injury, India were forced to make two changes for the game against New Zealand in Dharamsala earlier this week. They did manage to secure their fifth straight win in the tournament, and are expected to go by a similar strategy in the match against England as well on Sunday in Lucknow, but it could very well backfire in future games.

Ashwin against England an easy call?

Mohammad Shami and Suryakumar Yadav had made their way into the XI for the New Zealand clash to cover for Hardik’s all-rounder abilities while Shardul Thakur warmed the bench. On Sunday, India might replace Shami with Ashwin, given the Lucknow pitch, which would subsequently provide them with batting depth as well.

While it is supposed to be an easy replacement call, the decision will leave India with just two specialist pacers on Jasprit Bumrah and one between Mohammed Siraj and Shami, who added to India’s selection headache with a five-wicket haul against New Zealand.

The pre-World Cup fear comes alive

With Hardik’s absence looking impossible to compensate for, India seem to be in dire need for a sixth-bowling option, among one of the top-order batters. Former India spinner and selector Sarandeep Singh believes that someone like a Kohli, who rolled his arms for just three deliveries in the Bangladesh match last week, can provide that option to India. He, along with Shubman Gill was spotted bowling in the nets on Thursday in Lucknow.

“There should be six bowling options with or without Hardik. Other teams have started to up their game. What if Bumrah has a bad day. Kuldeep got hit the other day but he bounced back. Teams have not been able score 350 against us but it can happen.

“If you are not going to get a sixth bowler, then you will need someone like Kohli to chip in with two of three overs. India must plan for all scenarios and I am sure they are doing that,” Sarandeep told PTI.

Earlier, ahead of the World Cup game in Pune, Rohit was also seen bowling in the nets to Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya under the watchful eyes of Ashwin. Not to forget, Shreyas Iyer is an off-spinner as well.


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