Gautam Gambhir, the former India batter, says the team needs to identify a back-up for seam-bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya as a priority as they build towards the 50-over World Cup at home this October-November.
“They need to quickly identify a back-up for Hardik; if something happens to him, India will be in serious, serious trouble,” Gambhir said on “Road To World Cup Glory”, a show on Star Sports that will be aired in full after the first T20I between India and Sri Lanka.
Hardik only recently returned to full fitness after dealing with a back condition that he’s had to manage over the past few years. The upcoming ODIs against Sri Lanka, where he’ll be vice-captain, will be his first one-dayers since the tour of England in July 2022.
, the former India allrounder, believes that the back-up for Hardik doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a seam-bowling allrounder because the tournament will be played in India. To illustrate 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 courtesy his left-arm spin.
“In these conditions, you’re allowed to have two spinning allrounders,” Irfan said. “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.”
Who should make up India’s pace attack at the World Cup?
Irfan also said having an out-and-out quick in Umran Malik will give India’s pace attack the X-factor, especially on flat decks where the ball may not seam much. Gambhir, meanwhile, welcomed Jasprit Bumrah’s return, saying he will be the team’s biggest strength at the World Cup.
Both Gambhir and Irfan were unanimous in their support for Prasidh Krishna, who has impressed in his limited opportunities with his hit-the-deck style that helps him generate steep bounce at excellent pace. Krishna hasn’t played any form of cricket since the tour of Zimbabwe in August, having picked up a back issue in September.
“He’s a guy who can give you extra pace and bounce, he’s my guy,” Irfan said. “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.”
Kris Srikkanth, chairman of the selection panel who picked the 2011 World Cup-winning team, had a different line-up in mind. “Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj will be my four pacers, along with Hardik Pandya’s medium pace. The matter ends.”
‘Take a break from T20 cricket, not ODIs’ – Gambhir
Workload management amid an increasingly packed calendar has been a hot topic of late, with India rotating players and not often fielding a first-choice XI. If this is the case in 2023 as well, Gambhir said, the focus should be on having first-choice players play ODIs and rest during T20I series or the IPL.
“This year [the core group should be focusing on] ODIs for sure. If they want to take a break, people who are playing all the three formats, they can definitely take a break from T20 cricket but surely not from ODI format. They have got to play together – I think the biggest mistake Indian cricket has made in the last probably two World Cups has been that they [the core players], these guys have not played enough cricket [in the lead up to the World Cups] together.
“Tell me how many times have we got the best playing XI on the park? We haven’t. Only during the World Cup we decide to have the best playing XI… The break has to happen in the T20 format and not 50 overs.
“And from the [IPL] franchisee point of view, [if] franchises have to suffer, they have to suffer. Indian cricket is the main stakeholder, not the IPL, the IPL is just the byproduct. So if India goes on to win the World Cup, that is the big ovation.”