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12.01.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul have been suspended pending inquiry for the inappropriate comments that they have made in the talk show Koffee with Karan.

This has come as a real shock to the Indian cricket team on the eve of the three-match ODI series against Australia. Though the absence of an out-of-form Rahul might not affect the team composition much, the absence of Hardik Pandya will definitely have an impact on the overall composition of the team.

Had Pandya stayed away from controversy, he would have been the best seam-bowling all-rounder for India going into the One-Day series against Australia. Now there is no like-for-like replacement for Pandya either in the squad or back home. While players like Irfan Pathan, Stuart Binny, and Rishi Dhawan are history, someone like a Vijay Shankar or a Shivam Dube are just starting out on their career.

The only other option left in the present squad is spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. When Jadeja replaced the injured Hardik Pandya midway through the Asia Cup, it came as a blessing-in-disguise as he proved to be the most effective all-rounder on sub-continental wickets. But here in Australia, the conditions are different and the team would be better off with a fast-bowling all-rounder like Pandya.

Jadeja, though a different kind of all-rounder, is still the best option to replace Hardik Pandya

Having said that, in all likelihood, Jadeja might replace Pandya in tomorrow’s match. This rules out the possibility of India playing two wrist-spinners as they cannot afford to go in with 3 spinners. On the other hand, if India choose to play Yuzvendra Chahal for Jadeja, that would weaken the team both in batting and fielding.

Had Pandya been available, India would have further strengthened their batting by playing both the all-rounders Pandya and Jadeja. That would have been the best way forward for India not only in the current series but also for the forthcoming World Cup. But now with the inept conduct of Pandya, that option has gone out of the window for the time being.

The absence of Hardik Pandya would certainly bring both Mohammed Shami and Khaleel Ahmed into the reckoning. In Pandya’s presence, either one of Khaleel or Shami will get an opportunity to fill up the void created by the absence of Jasprit Bumrah. Now that Pandya is unavailable for selection, both Khaleel and Shami are in the reckoning to back up Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Even Mohammed Siraj has an outside chance of making it to the playing XI.

After the recent unwarranted developments, the Indian bowling attack might be in the hands of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Khaleel Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, and Kuldeep Yadav. Kedar Jadhav would be the sixth bowling option against the Aussie batsmen.

On the eve of the first ODI, the Indian team management has a lot to ponder over to arrive at the best team composition. It also remains to be seen whether the off-field mishaps would affect the overall morale of the team on the field. The absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya in a way would narrow down the gap between the two teams since Australia will be once again without David Warner and Steve Smith.

While the Indian team is on a quandary to choose the best playing XI, Pandya and K.L. Rahul would be better off if they look upon players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and M.S. Dhoni to learn a lot about how to conduct yourself in the eyes of the public and to handle stardom considerately.