Former Indian batter Wasim Jaffer stressed the importance of Shardul Thakur's presence in the playing XI to strengthen the batting depth of the side.
The inclusion of the entire pace trio of Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Umran Malik, albeit successful, has severely hampered the depth of batting in the playing XI.
Malik, who had to make way for Thakur in the first ODI against New Zealand, has had a good home season so far, claiming wickets on a regular basis in the middle overs with his sheer pace, despite going for excess runs at times.
Opining that Thakur's presence as a batting option at No. 8 is crucial to the balance of the team, Jaffer said on ESPNcricinfo:
"I don't think Umran Malik will play the second ODI as well. Even if he plays, it will not be in the place of Shardul Thakur. I think the presence of Shardul Thakur is very important, because it is crucial to have a batting option at No.8."
"I think Shardul bowled pretty well in the last match, he took Allen's wicket and bowled that yorker in the end as well. So, he has the ability to take wickets. He might go for runs, but he gets wickets and can score runs as well."
Thakur and Hardik Pandya shared the role of third seamer in the first ODI against the Blackcaps in Hyderabad. The Mumbai all-rounder made a terrific start to his spell, claiming the wicket of Finn Allen, but was on the receiving end of Michael Bracewell's incredible hitting. He bowled the decisive final over, ending with figures of 2-54 off 7.2 overs.
"India need such bowling all-rounders, whether it be pacers or spinners" - Wasim Jaffer
Team India have often tried out various combinations to bring out the balance in the side. They played with five proper bowlers in the series against Sri Lanka, but have reverted to the inclusion of bowling all-rounders in the playing XI. The incredible hundred from Michael Bracewell was the perfect example of what batting depth offers.
Wasim Jaffer opined that India need to incorporate a way to include as many all-rounders as possible, even suggesting the combination of Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja in the same playing XI when available. He said:
"India need such bowling all-rounders, whether it be pacers or spinners. We have seen it with the New Zealand team as well. When the batting has a little depth, then no match or no situation is deemed impossible."
"This is a World Cup year and I think that India's third seamer should be an all-rounder. Even with the spinners actually, I don't think playing both Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja would be a bad idea at all."
The second ODI between India and New Zealand will be played at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in Raipur on Saturday, January 21. This marks the first international contest that the venue will play host to.
It has hosted a few Indian Premier League (IPL) and now-defunct Champions League T20 (CLT20) matches in the past.
Noting that there is not expected to be much aid for the spinners from the track, Jaffer said:
"I am not expecting much aid for the spinners from the Raipur pitch. The ball is likely to skid on. The dimensions are quite huge actually, especially the side boundaries, perhaps it would be brought in a little. The large boundaries might favor the spinners. There might be help on offer for seamers upfront."
Team India hold a slender 1-0 lead in the three-match affair on the back of their 12-run win in the series opener.
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