India vs Australia 2020-21: Hardik Pandya or Vijay Shankar? Here is Gautam Gambhir's pick
Hardik Pandya is a natural all-rounder. However, he is playing as a batsman of late, as he is yet to resume bowling entirely since recovering from his back injury. Meanwhile, Vijay Shankar has been out of colours since the past one year, especially following the 2019 ICC World Cup.
India are off to a shaky start in Australia, struggling in the bowling department, as the hosts took their bowlers apart. Even in batting, the visitors had to rely on all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who played a brave knock of 90, on Friday.
Nonetheless, he is playing as a specialist batsman in the series, as he is refraining himself from bowling, as of now, since he has just recovered from his back injury, for which he had to undergo a surgery in London last year. Meanwhile, former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir feels that Pandya is taking up the extra spot of an all-rounder, while Vijay Shankar could have been ideal in such a situation.
"Big-time and this has been happening what -- since the last World Cup. If Hardik is not fit (to bowl), where is your sixth bowling option. It's only Vijay Shankar that I can think of, but does he have the same impact batting at No. five or six. Can he give you seven or eight overs, I have my doubts," Gambhir was quoted as saying to ESPNCricinfo.
Gambhir even linked it with India's opener's situation, where Rohit Sharma is currently missing out, owing to a hamstring strain. "You can talk (about) putting in Manish Pandey. Even if and when Rohit Sharma comes back in the XI, the problem you are facing now, you will be facing then. There is no one in the top six who can actually give you a couple of overs," he added.
"And, if you see the Australian side, there is Moises Henriques, who can give you a couple of overs, there is Sean Abbott, who is bowling all-rounder. They have Daniel Sams, who can both bowl and bat. From the Indian point of view, if Hardik is unfit, where is the replacement?" wondered Gambhir.
Pandya would be in focus again, as India take on the Aussies in the second ODI, at the same venue, on Sunday. It would be a do-or-die situation for the visitors, as a loss would rule them out of the contention for a series win.