Opinion - Hardik Pandya’s absence gives India bowling headache
Having failed to grasp chances to enact similar first time series victories in both South Africa and England, India will need to show this difficult task hasn’t encountered a mental block.Updated: Dec 01, 2018 08:34 IST
India finished the T20I series on a high with a good win over Australia and Virat Kohli asserting his authority at the crease. Now comes the main business with India having a glorious opportunity to beat Australia at home for the first time in a Test series. The initial obstacle in achieving that aim is a mental one.
Having failed to grasp chances to enact similar first time series victories in both South Africa and England, India will need to show this difficult task hasn’t encountered a mental block. In the lead up to the battle with Australia, Kohli highlighted the need to “ensure against the occasional poor session”, which he said cost them any chance of victory in both the South African and English series.
This failing applies more to the batsmen than the bowlers. His warning has even more meaning in Australia as the hosts possess a really strong attack, well suited to local conditions.
For his part the coach Ravi Shastri highlighted the top order as crucial to India doing well in Australia. He felt that if the openers got the team off to a good start that would help nullify the trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins and set India on the path to match-winning scores.
Posting decent first innings scores is crucial for India in getting the upper-hand against an Australian batting line-up devoid of their best two players in Steve Smith and David Warner. Because of their absence the Australian attack will be desperate to restrict India’s scoring in order to give their batsmen a greater chance to post winning totals.
With Kohli being far and away the outstanding batsman in the series his input will be decisive but he can’t do it all on his own. As India found out in both South Africa and England he needs some help from the other top order batsmen.
Before the series even commences India is handicapped. The absence of seam bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya reduces the likelihood of India playing two spinners and given Australia’s frailty in this regard, it’s a lucky break for the hosts.
If Australia decide to play Travis Head this will mean four of the top five batsmen are left-handed and that points to Ravi Ashwin being the preferred spinner. If India do decide on two spinners, Ravindra Jadeja is likely to get the nod because his presence will shorten the specialist batting, so his ability to provide lower order runs will be a difference maker.
PANT, RIGHT CHOICE?
Either way India is dammed; if they play six batsmen it leaves the bowling short and if they only play five, this will provide extra incentive for the Australian bowlers to rip through the top order. There is no easy solution.
The inclusion of Rishabh Pant as keeper is a bit of a gamble. In Australia a keeper needs to be able cover a lot of width (both left and right) standing back and I’m not sure Pant’s footwork will allow him to do that successfully. Dropped catches are damaging in any series but even more so if runs are at a premium.
There’s no doubt that India have a tremendous opportunity to create some meaningful history but they’ll need to do everything right to beat Australia. Even a depleted Australia is like a wounded Tiger; a dangerous opponent.
(The author, a former Australian Test captain, will write exclusively for Hindustan Times during the series Down Under)
First Published: Dec 01, 2018 08:33 IST