Dharamsala: Hardik Pandya’s absence does upset the balance of the Indian playing eleven but head coach Rahul Dravid dropped good enough hints about Mohammed Shami and Suryakumar Yadav being in contention without confirming the preferred combination for the World Cup game against New Zealand on Sunday.
Pandya has injured his left ankle while bowling during the previous match against Bangladesh in Pune and is currently under supervision of BCCI medical team at National Cricket Academy.
‘…obviously, he (Hardik) is an important player for us, so we will have to work around that and see what is the best combination that we can come up with. We will have to see what works best for these conditions and these wickets. But probably might not have the kind of balance that we probably used in the first four games,’ Dravid was very practical in his thought-process.
Why Shami has a good chance of playing?
That Shami could come into the picture was clear when he termed Shardul being looked as the fourth seamer in the set-up where Pandya was ahead in the pecking order.
Dravid didn’t disclose the playing XI and Hardik’s possible replacement but hinted that besides Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin is also an option.
‘Obviously, the three seamers, having someone like Shami sitting out there and bringing him in this game is a great option. In some cases, there is Ashwin who has obviously been sitting out, who has great quality as well. So, there are two or three combinations we could use considering this till Hardik gets back,’ he added.
Dravid is someone who is not even known to reveal simplest of open and shut team combinations, even when he used to be a captain. Typically, he said that all options are being explored but one could read between the lines.
‘We certainly can go with, obviously, the three fast bowlers or the three spinners. With that kind of combination, we still could play Ash (Ashwin) and move Jadeja up,’ he said.
‘Many different, different permutations and combinations. I wouldn’t want to give too much away. I mean, we are pretty clear on what our playing 11 is tomorrow.
Ishan will only be considered if we want someone in top-order
The coach also hinted that it’s a toss up between Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan in the batting department but then one statement became a clincher why Suryakumar has a better chance considering they are looking at a finisher.
‘I mean, it is nice to have Ishan. And like you said, rightly, he’s been playing well. He’s a left-hander. ‘If you are looking for someone a little bit higher up the order, then maybe we might go with Ishan.’
With Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul selecting themselves, No. 6 can’t be Kishan’s slot and Dravid’s statement corroborates the fact.
But again, Surya has also come into some great form against Australia, as we saw. Played a couple of fantastic innings. Absolutely fantastic player against spin, as we know. Left arm spin or off spin, or any kind of spin, for that matter,’ Dravid said.
Surya is being looked at No 6 and that’s where Pandya generally bats.
‘And plus, the role may be for a middle-over role – so we will just have to see which one we want to – we are pretty clear about the kind of roles that people can play. So, if you are looking for someone who might be a bit of an enforcer for us in the lower middle order, then Surya is certainly someone who can do that.
Shardul remains the fourth seamer
Dravid gave enough hints to suggest that Shardul Thakur might get the boot on Sunday.
‘I mean, Shardul clearly, his role was to be that kind of bowling all-rounder for us, you know, in the games that he played.
‘In the games that he played, we saw him as someone who certainly has a happy knack of taking wickets as we have seen and then bowling those middle overs for us and being like a fourth seeming option for us on certain wickets which would probably require that fourth seeming option.’ Dravid stressed that Thakur is working hard on his batting but it is evident that he is still not a ready No.7 if one pushes Jadeja up the order.
‘Obviously, he hasn’t had a chance to really bat a lot over the last bit. But certainly, he’s been working very hard in the nets with his batting. And we’ve been working very hard on it.
‘We’ve seen that he has the ability to hit some big shots and play some good shots. But certainly, that was the kind of role he fitted in for us in that bowling all-rounders role,’ Dravid said.
Seeing a bit of himself in KL
Dravid also complimented his namesake KL Rahul for perfectly donning dual duties of keeping and batting in the middle-order.
‘It’s certainly not easy and I think he is doing a fantastic job of it. I thought Rahul’s really kept superbly in this tournament and then batted really well whenever he’s got the opportunity to do that, especially in the first game.’ Rahul in fact had kept wickets in his junior days and unlike Dravid, who was handed the gloves by erstwhile skipper Sourav Ganguly to play an extra batter.
‘But I think it is challenging, because for someone like him who, and having had that experience myself, he’s not someone who keeps regularly at all. But he’s probably kept a little bit more than I have,’ the coach said.
‘As a youngster, he kept probably up to his under-19 days, and he’s kept in a few T20 games, as well for Karnataka and all that. So, he kept a little bit more than I did, but certainly not easy, considering he was also out with injury for four or five months. t of time with the wicket-keeping, worked really hard on it.’
Dravid said it will be a tough contest against a very good New Zealand side, who have plenty of experience of Indian conditions.
‘Yeah, very good side. I will say that they are playing very good cricket. They play in India a lot. They played here. They come on tours to India a lot. A lot of their players have played in the IPL, so they’re very used to these conditions.’
(Published 21 October 2023, 16:30 IST)