Former India cricketer Suresh Raina feels that if all-rounder Hardik Pandya is in the playing eleven for India’s match in Group 2 against New Zealand in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, then he should be ready to bowl two or three overs. Pandya hasn’t bowled in competitive cricket since the white-ball tour to Sri Lanka in July.
Moreover, Pandya hasn’t bowled a single delivery in the last two editions of the IPL and did not bowl in India’s warm-up matches ahead of the Men’s T20 World Cup. “I want to be able to bowl eventually, closer to the knockouts. The professionals and I both have to take the call about when I can have a bowl,” Pandya had said in a chat with the broadcasters before the start of the match against Pakistan on October 24, where he didn’t bowl a single ball in the ten-wicket loss.
“The other big decision will be what to do with Hardik Pandya. I think if he is going to be in the playing XI, then he has to be able to give Virat two or three overs. You need at least one in the powerplay and then a couple more in the middle overs ideally,” wrote Raina in his column for the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday.
“Otherwise, you have other guys who can come in. Ishan Kishan batted really well in the IPL and the warm-up games so he could add a lot,” added Raina, the only Indian player to score a century in men’s T20 World Cups.
The 34-year-old added that he will not be surprised if off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is included in the playing eleven in place of Varun Chakravarthy as New Zealand have many left-handed batters. “On the bowling side, I would not be surprised to see Ravichandran Ashwin get a chance because New Zealand have a lot of left-handers and he could be very useful against them. That might be enough to see him move ahead of Varun Chakravarthy.”
Raina mentioned that openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul need to come good after being dismissed cheaply in the match against Pakistan. “We have match-winners in our side, but we really need KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma to click at the top of the order. If they can put on the runs early on, then Virat Kohli can come in and play around and guys like Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant will attack.”
Raina concluded by saying that India’s ability to bounce back after an early setback can help in having an edge over New Zealand. “One thing we have seen over the last few years is that India are very good at bouncing back after a loss. We saw it when they were bowled out for 36 in Australia and came back and won the Test series and they came back against England on the tour there. It is all about character and intent and I think if India produces their A-game, then they will have the edge against New Zealand.”
India, the 2007 champions, will face-off against New Zealand in a must-win Group 2 match at Dubai on Sunday evening to keep their semi-finals hopes alive.