Hardik Pandya, who scored a career-best 90 against Australia in the first ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which unfortunately went in vain, reckons India need to groom their next all-rounder as long as he isn’t cleared to bowl. Pandya, who has refrained from bowling upon his return to competitive cricket following his back surgery last year, is playing in the Indian XI primarily as a batsman, but at the same time, it is denying India a sixth bowling option, the need for which was felt during their average bowling show on Friday.
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To solve India’s all-rounder conundrum till he isn’t allowed to bowl, Hardik suggested that the team can perhaps ‘look in the Pandya family’, referring to brother Krunal Pandya, who is an integral part of IPL franchise Mumbai Indians and has played 18 T20Is for India scoring 121 runs and picking up 14 wickets.
“That has been the question always, right? We have to find and maybe make… I have always believed that… even when I came into the circuit, I was not always the all-rounder which I wanted to be. But with time I groomed myself and became that bowling option. I worked on my bowling.”
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India’s bowlers had a forgettable outing as Australia hammered them to score 374/6, their highest ODI total against India. While Jasprit Bumrah leaked 73 runs, pacer Navdeep Saini and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal conceded a combined 172 runs in 20 overs. Mohammed Shami was the pick finishing with 3/59 but most of India’s bowlers had no answer to Aaron Finch and Steve Smith’s century and Glenn Maxwell’s cameo of 19-ball 45.
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“Yeah, it is always going to be difficult when you go with five bowlers. When someone is having an off day you don’t have someone to fulfil the quota. More than injury, the sixth bowler’s role is when someone among the five bowlers is having a bad day. I think it is going to be… maybe we will have to make, maybe we will have to find someone who has already played India, and groom them and find a way to make them play,” Pandya said.
As far as return to bowling is concerned, Pandya is taking it one step at a time. Reports suggest that the all-rounder, who is bowling in the nets, is in the process of remodelling his action entirely, which won’t put too much pressure on his back. But at the moment, Hardik is far from reaching that stage.
“It is a process. I am looking at a long-term goal where I want to be 100% of my bowling capacity for the most important games. The World Cups are coming. More crucial series are coming. Whenever it is required,” Pandya said of his bowling.
“I am thinking as a long-term plan, not short term where I exhaust myself and maybe have something else [injury] which is not there. So it is going to be a process, which I am following. I can’t tell you exactly when I am going to bowl but the process is on. In the nets, I am bowling. It is just that I am not game-ready but I am bowling. It is all about confidence and the skill has to be at an international level.”