By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) India will have their backs to the wall if even a couple of their bowlers fail to click during the three-game ODI series that begins on Friday in Sydney. The Virat Kohli-led tourists have a severe shortage of options in batsmen who can bowl or bowlers who can bat, with only Ravindra Jadeja being a proper all-rounder.
Hardik Pandya, who is touring, cannot bowl as he is yet to reach fitness for a bowler and would most likely play only as a batsman, like he did in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for champions Mumbai Indians. Even if he is played as an all-rounder, he hasn’t had overs under his belt to be forced to bowl in Australia’s trying conditions.
India had faced similar problems in February this year in the three-ODI series in New Zealand as they failed to defend totals twice, including one of 347 in the first game where not one bowler could click. They just didn’t have a back-up bowler to fall back on in that ODI at Hamilton. Same happened in the last ODI at Mount Maunganui where the batsmen failed to get to 300 and the bowlers couldn’t contain the Kiwi batsmen.
A repeat of that situation for India in Australia could be disastrous.
In India’s ODI squad of 16, there are eight specialist batsmen, including wicketkeeper-batsmen, who cannot bowl and if Hardik is considered a pure batsman, there are nine batters. Of the remaining seven, six are specialist bowlers with Ravindra Jadeja being the only all-rounder.
In comparison, Australia are spoilt for choice with four in their ODI squad — Marcus Stoinis, Moises Henriques, Cameron Green and Daniel Sams being genuine all-rounders. They also have bowler Pat Cummins who bats well and can get runs towards the end. Batsman Glenn Maxwell too bowls a few overs of off-spin regularly. It means they can play six-seven batsmen and six-seven bowlers in one particular game.
“We really like having an extra bowler in ODIs. In England, we had Mitchell Marsh, Stoinis and (Glenn) Maxwell to get extra 10 overs or so and we liked that combination, giving us an extra all-rounder,” said Australia coach Justin Langer while speaking to the media on Wednesday morning.
In comparison, India have only Jadeja and as experience in New Zealand showed he is likely to be one of the two regular spinners among the five specialist bowlers as India are unlikely to play three spinners.
The Indian team management, like they did in New Zealand, will most likely play KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper-batsman allowing an extra place for either a batsman or a bowler. If it is a batsman then all-rounder Jadeja becomes just one of the five bowlers like in New Zealand. But if an extra bowler comes in, Rahul the wicketkeeper-batsman will also have to be one of the five specialist batsmen.
The imbalance is caused by Pandya being unable to bowl and there has been no update from the BCCI on his fitness or why he has travelled when he did not have enough overs under his belt.
India have struggled to find all-rounders, especially a pace-bowling all-rounder, over the past few years.
Hardik’s brother Krunal, part of the T20 squad in Australia, is a spin bowling all-rounder. He, however, is deemed fit only for T20 cricket.