India will have their backs to the wall if even a couple of their bowlers fail to click during the three-game ODI series that begins on Friday in Sydney. The Virat Kohli-led tourists have a severe shortage of options in batsmen who can bowl or bowlers who can bat, with only Ravindra Jadeja being a proper all-rounder.
Hardik Pandya, who is touring, cannot bowl as he is yet to reach fitness for a bowler and would most likely play only as a batsman, like he did in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for champions Mumbai Indians. Even if he is played as an all-rounder, he hasn’t had overs under his belt to be forced to bowl in Australia’s trying conditions.
India had faced similar problems in February this year in the three-ODI series in New Zealand as they failed to defend totals twice, including one of 347 in the first game where not one bowler could click. They just didn’t have a back-up bowler to fall back on in that ODI at Hamilton. Same happened in the last ODI at Mount Maunganui where the batsmen failed to get to 300 and the bowlers couldn’t contain the Kiwi batsmen.
A repeat of that situation for India in Australia could be disastrous.
In India’s ODI squad of 16, there are eight specialist batsmen, including wicketkeeper-batsmen, who cannot bowl and if Hardik is considered a pure batsman, there are nine batters. Of the remaining seven, six are specialist bowlers with Ravindra Jadeja being the only all-rounder.
In comparison, Australia are spoilt for choice with four in their ODI squad — Marcus Stoinis, Moises Henriques, Cameron Green and Daniel Sams being genuine all-rounders. They also have bowler Pat Cummins who bats well and can get runs towards the end. Batsman Glenn Maxwell too bowls a few overs of off-spin regularly. It means they can play six-seven batsmen and six-seven bowlers in one particular game.