CHENNAI: If Ravi Shastri happens to sit at an auction table with the India’s 15-man squad and one more spot to fill, how much would he go for a batting all-rounder? The chances are he would not even hesitate to spend the remaining purse on one.
As India prepared for their opening match of the T20 World Cup against Pakistan by beating Australia on Wednesday in a warm-up fixture, they looked every bit good to be considered among the favourites for the tournament. But three days ahead of their match against their arch-rivals, they are still some distance away from finding what will be their right combination thanks to the uncertainty around Hardik Pandya’s ability to bowl. If he is fit to bowl, Pandya could offer them more options, namely allowing India to field three spinners. If not, India may be forced to play only two on pitches that are slow.
On Wednesday, India showed how desperate they are in search of a sixth bowling option as they even tried Virat Kohli for a couple of overs, in a match where Rohit Sharma captained the side. After using only five bowlers in their first warm-up fixture against England, against Australia India used seven bowlers. But Pandya wasn’t amongst them. The team management believes Pandya will be able to bowl during the course of the tournament, and his ability to hit-off from the word-go means, he is being looked at as a finisher along with Ravindra Jadeja. But even his form with the bat hasn’t been that encouraging and with Ishan Kishan in the mix, it could get interesting for two reasons.
India play four of their five matches in Dubai, a venue where short-boundaries will be in play as they are set to keep the centre-wicket for the latter stages. As was evident during the IPL, teams have to be smarter with left-right combinations. With Rishabh Pant being the only left-hander in the top six, Ishan can provide India with another option that will make them more dynamic. And two, his big-hitting abilities are second to none and can do enough damage even if stays for just four overs.
While India did contemplate playing Ishan ahead of Suryakumar Yadav, the latter is seen as a trump-card in the middle, one who could even take the attack to opposition even if the team loses early wickets. Plus, being a 360 player, he offers something unique. That said, if there is some level of certainty, it is in the batting line-up. Rohit, KL Rahul, Kohli, Suryakumar and Pant are all but certain to be in the XI against Pakistan on Sunday. In the bowling front too, India have a decision to make. Apart from Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, India are likely to take a call on the others more on a match-by-match basis.
Brief scores: Australia 152/5 in 20 ovs (Smith 57, Ashwin 2/8) lost to India 153/2 in 17.5 ovs (Rohit 60 retd, Rahul 39).