As India prepare for the 50-over World Cup at home in October-November, former India batter Gautam Gambhir said the team must prioritise finding a replacement for seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya. “They need to quickly identify a back-up for Hardik; if something happens to him, India will be in serious, serious trouble,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Gambhir as saying on ‘Road To World Cup Glory’. Hardik has only recently returned to full fitness after dealing with a back condition for the past few years.
The upcoming ODIs against Sri Lanka, in which he will be vice-captain, will be his first one-day internationals since the England tour in July 2022.
Former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan believes that because the tournament will be played in India, Hardik’s backup does not have to be a seam-bowling all-rounder. To prove his point, he cited Yuvraj Singh‘s exploits at the 2011 World Cup, where he was Player of the Tournament with 362 runs and 15 wickets thanks to his left-arm spin.
“In these conditions, you’re allowed to have two spinning allrounders. Guys like Washy [Washington Sundar], Axar [Patel], [Ravindra] Jadeja, and most importantly Deepak Hooda also [should be] in your scheme of things. Because he’s a batter; he just took four wickets in the New Zealand series. He [Hooda] needs to get a long run,” Irfan said.
Umran Malik, according to Irfan, will give India’s pace attack the X-factor, especially on flat decks where the ball may not seam much. Meanwhile, Gambhir praised Jasprit Bumrah‘s return, saying he will be the team’s most valuable asset at the World Cup. “He’s a guy who can give you extra pace and bounce, he’s my guy. Avesh Khan can also be someone who can get bounce even on show pitches. You need guys who can give a little extra on such wickets,” Irfan said.
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