'Hardik Pandya as sixth bowler is risky' - Ajit Agarkar offers 'best possible solution' for India's bowling issue
India all-rounder Hardik Pandya has begun bowling in the nets again. After months of featuring solely as a batsman in the lineup, for Mumbai Indians as well in both the legs of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, Hardik has provided some hope to the Indian team management of a sixth-bowling option having undergone two consecutive days of bowling and fitness sessions in the nets. However, former Indian cricketer Ajit Agarkar feels that it might be too risky to pick Hardik as an all-rounder in the starting XI against New Zealand on Sunday (October 31) and rather offered an alternative to India's bowling issue.
Lack of a sixth-bowling option hurt India in their opener against arch-rivals Pakistan on October 24 in Dubai as Babar Azam's men scripted a historic 10-wicket win.
Experts of the game have since offered various suggestions to the Indian team while few questioned Hardik's fitness issue and place in the XI. Joining the bandwagon, while Agarkar did not speak about Hardik's inclusion, he felt that India might risk offering him to bowl during the New Zealand game. He instead felt that captain Virat Kohli might want to roll his arms to deliver a few overs in between.
“Yes, we did see Hardik in the nets. But he hasn't bowled in the last couple of months. And as a bowler, I know how difficult it is to come and bowl during a match situation. So I feel this shouldn't happen where a bowler isn't fully fit and that costs you the game. And the bowler won't be at fault here. So it will be a risky option expecting the bowler, who has been out for so many months, to perform after only two days of practice. That will surely not be my sixth bowling option hence India are likely to play with just five bowlers,” he said speaking to ESPNCricinfo.
"Maybe if Kohli bowls one or two overs in between then that would be the best possible solution for India as of now. There is a question mark now how much Hardik can deliver as a bowler."
Although Kohli did bowl in the warm-up match against Australia a week ago, he last bowled in a T20I game for India back in 2016, against West Indies, where he was smashed for 15 runs in 1.4 overs. Overall, he has picked four wickets for India as a bowler, in 12 innings at an economy rate of 8.14. In IPL, he has picked four wickets as well, in 32 innings at an economy rate of 9.02.
A sixth bowling option would definitely help India in having Jasprit Bumrah strictly for the death and Varun Chakravarthy for the powerplay, which India struggled with owing to lack of freedom with the options.