Hardik Pandya's absence adds complexity to Ashwin's inclusion in upcoming clash with England
The absence of star all-rounder Hardik Pandya complicates the decision to include Ravi Ashwin in the Indian cricket team as they prepare for their crucial match against England, influencing their World Cup strategy.
Considering Ravi Ashwin as the third spinner for the Lucknow match would have been straightforward had Hardik Pandya been available. However, the star all-rounder's recovery from injury remains incomplete, posing a challenge for the Indian team management before their upcoming clash with England on Sunday.
Hardik's role in the team is crucial, batting at number six and serving as the third seamer, offering essential balance to the playing eleven. His absence during the Dharamsala match forced India to make two changes, though they still managed to secure their fifth consecutive win, maintaining their status as the only unbeaten team in the tournament.
India typically enjoys the luxury of having six bowling options when Hardik is on the field. However, for the match in Lucknow, it is anticipated that the team will deploy five bowlers against a deflated England side.
While this strategy worked against New Zealand, it may pose a risk in future matches. To compensate for Hardik's all-rounder abilities, Mohammad Shami and Suryakumar Yadav were brought into the side, while Shardul Thakur was excluded from the playing eleven.
Rohit Sharma and his team have been explicit in their approach, adopting a horses-for-courses strategy throughout the nine league games, each in a different venue.
Ashwin is the preferred choice at number 8 in spin-friendly conditions, and Shardul replaces him on flat tracks. However, the scenario becomes more complicated when Hardik is not in the lineup.
If Ashwin plays against England in conditions conducive to spin, India could potentially field only two specialist pacers. Jasprit Bumrah's place is assured, but there might be a selection dilemma between Mohammad Siraj and Mohammad Shami, who showcased his skill with a five-wicket haul in Dharamsala.
Former India spinner and selector Sarandeep Singh believes India should have a sixth bowling option, even in Hardik's absence. This might require players like Virat Kohli to contribute with a few overs during the middle stage. Both Kohli and Shubman Gill were seen bowling in the nets on Thursday.
Sarandeep commented, "There should be six bowling options with or without Hardik. Other teams have started to up their game. What if Bumrah has a bad day? Kuldeep got hit the other day, but he made a comeback. Teams have not been able to score 350 against us, but it can happen. If you are not going to get a sixth bowler, then you will need someone like Kohli to chip in with two or three overs. India must plan for all scenarios, and I am sure they are doing that."
England, as defending champions, may have underperformed, but they remain a team with multiple match-winners. Their aggressive approach might unsettle India's plans, and exploring an additional bowling option, whether with or without Ashwin, could be a wise strategy for India to reach their ultimate goal of winning the World Cup. When Hardik returns, the rotation between Ashwin and Shardul can continue.