ICC World Cup: Buoyant India brace to carry on without Hardik Pandya
"We may not have a sixth fulltime bowler but we have a wrongfooted, inswing menace waiting"
The terse message from International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday morning read like yet another injury replacement – yet it meant much more than that for the Indian cricket fan.
Their worst fears have now come true about Hardik Pandya, the multi-tasking allrounder, who has been eventually ruled out of the World Cup as his recovery from the ankle injury was not up to speed even after a two-week wait.
As the buzz around Sunday’s big game against South Africa reached a fever pitch with Indian team’s arrival at the Eden for an evening net session, the confirmation of Pandya’s absence hit the only discordant note in what had been a perfect campaign so far.
Prasidh Krishna, the lanky Karnataka paceman who made a comeback from an injury sometime back along with Jasprit Bumrah, has been named as a replacement – though no prizes for guessing that he is more a standbye in case any of the in-form pace trio breaks down in the rest of the campaign.
It must be tough to be in Pandya’s shoes, whose tryst with injuries continue to haunt him at critical junctures of his career. The way he was providing the much-needed balance to India’s playing XI in the first four matches – as the third pacer and the number six who was capable of adapting as per the needs of the situation – there was talk that his presence could be as valuable to Rohit Sharma & Co in 2023 as Ben Stokes’ to England four years back.
"Tough to digest the fact that I will miss out on the remaining part of the World Cup. I’ll be with the team, in spirit, cheering them on every ball of every game. Thanks for all the wishes, the love, and the support has been incredible. This team is special and I'm sure we'll make everyone proud. Love, always, HP,’’ a heartbroken Pandya posted on X.
The Indian team, which would not like to take a foot off the pedal at this stage, gave enough indication that they would not attempt a change in template.
‘’The fact is we don’t have a sixth bowler, but we have the wrongfooted inswing menace (Virat Kohli) waiting to have a go,’’ chief coach Rahul Dravid said at the media conference with a wry sense of humour. ‘’We also have Surya who can roll his arm for a few overs along with Rohit too,’’ he added.
Ever since Pandya hobbled out of the Bangladesh game on October 19 with a freak ankle injury while trying to field off his own bowling, India brought in Surya Kumar Yadav in his place and the sizzling Mohammed Shami in place of an underwhelming Shardul Thakur.
And the rest, as they say, was history. The threesome of Bumrah-Siraj-Shami managed to instill a sense of fear among the England and Sri Lanka batters in particular, while the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja choked them in the middle overs.
The hosts went on to make it seven out of seven – and will now be hoping that their five-man attack does not have an off day nor break down in the remaining few matches.
The onus may well be on the South African batters, now on song, to pose a few questions for an essentially five-man Indian attack.
India vs South Africa
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
When: Sunday, 5 November
From: 2 pm.