Former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir has asserted that India have been lacking a sixth bowling option since World Cup and they are left reeling in absence of Hardik the all-rounder. He also cited the examples of Sean Abbott, Moises Henriques and Daniel Sams as two-dimensional players for Aussies.
India's balance completely gets off track in absence of Hardik Pandya the all-rounder. While Mumbai Indians could afford Hardik Pandya as a specialist batsman as they had many all-round options, India have also been forced to do the same given what he brings to the plate in lower-middle-order but that disrupts India's balance. Hardik not rolling his arm over meant India had to field Ravindra Jadeja and not a specialist batsman or bowler, which bereft them of depth in both batting and bowling departments in the ODI series opener.
After the game, Pandya had declared that he was in no mood of rushing back to bowling again as he doesn't want to be short-sighted and has his eyes set on the next year's T20 World Cup, which will be played in India. Touching on India's Achilles heel, former Indian opener and World Cup-winner Gautam Gambhir stated that India have been lacking a sixth bowling option since the 2019 World Cup where they lost to New Zealand in the semi-final.
"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," Gambhir was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
He remarked that Vijay Shankar can both bat and bowl but he lacks the impact that someone like Hardik has on the game at no.5/6.
"It's only Vijay Shankar that I can think of but does he have the same impact batting at No 5 or 6. Can he give you seven or 8 overs, I have my doubts," Gambhir said.
There were calls ahead of the first ODI to have Manish Pandey ahead of Hardik Pandya but Gambhir reckoned that even if Pandey is picked in the XI or injured Rohit Sharma is back, that doesn't quite solve the issue of the sixth bowling option.
"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 said.
Gambhir added that unlike Australia, who have many handy all-round options, India can't look beyond Hardik.
"And if you see the Australian side, there is Moises Henrqiues, who can give you couple of overs, there is Sean Abbott who is bowling all-rounder. They have Daniel Sams who can both bowl and bat. From Indian point of view, if Hardik is unfit where is the replacement?", he pointed out.
Australia had won the first ODI against India by 66 runs and now both the teams will take on each other in the second ODI at SCG again cometh Sunday.