Hardik Pandya being an integral part of India’s white-ball cricket is not a secret. He has cemented his credentials as one of the most multi-faceted cricketers in recent years. His all-around abilities make him an indispensable talent for the teams he plays for. However, he has been battling a bad back. He underwent surgery and has not bowled regularly in close to a year.
He started in the main eleven against Pakistan as a full-time batsman. While batting in the middle, Pandya reportedly received a blow on his shoulder. He was in visible pain as could be seen while he was out there battling. He was sent for scans and they have come back clean. However, knowing how precarious his body is, Pandya is always surrounded by injury scares.
With the ICC T20 World Cup being one of the most important tournaments, India should look for Pandya’s cover from the existing players or call someone, not in the squad. They shall begin strategizing for a team without Pandya to be fully ready for any eventuality. We look at 5 alternatives from the bench and not in the squad who can replace Pandya in the team.
1. Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur was added to the squad post IPL in place of Axar Patel. It was one of the most sensible management decisions. He is the most suitable replacement for Pandya in the team. His performances in the England series just went on to consolidate his reputation as a credible all-rounder. He scored two 50s in the fourth test and broke crucial partnerships in a precarious situation. He is touted as the “partnership-breaker” and also carries the vibe of being able to make things happen on the field when nothing much is happening. He has grown into a well-rounded cricketer under MSD’s captaincy and impressed in the just concluded IPL too.
2. Axar Patel
Patel had been selected in the team initially but was late put on stand by for Shardul Thakur. However, considering Pandya’s uncertain situation it would be only prudent to call Patel back into the team. He would be a handy left-arm spinner and can score some quick runs lower down the batting line-up. With the pacers finding it tough, as evidenced from the India Pakistan match, Patel could be a key addition to the team.
3. Venkatesh Iyer
The biggest gain for KKR in this year’s IPL has been discovering Iyer. He was brilliant at the top of the order with Gill and scored 370 runs in the 10 matches he played. He averaged over 40 with bat and struck at around 130. He has also been a handy left-handed bowler picking up 3 wickets in this season. He could fit the role of the backup all-rounder in the team and would solve the team selection conundrum with relative ease.
4. Deepak Chahar
A name that most people thought would be an automatic pick in the T20 squad after his heroics in Sri Lanka, it was surprising to not have him in the squad. He played a whirlwind of a knock in the second ODI where he took the team across the line by scoring 69 runs off 82 balls. All hopes were doomed as half the team was in the pavilion yet Chahar won the game single-handedly. His batting has substantially improved and his off-cutters are hugely effective on slow pitches of UAE.
5. Ravichandran Ashwin
Ashwin has played in the 2011 and 2015 ICC World Cups. He has also been featured in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 ICC T20 World Cups. He has the required experience and the skill to ensure that he operates at his optimum during the world cup. He is genius cricketing brain may help India tide the turn after the drubbing against Pakistan. He is also a much-improved batsman now than he was a few years back.