Former cricketer Aakash Chopra notes Team India looks far from a balanced side while playing with only five bowlers in the playing XI. The Men in Blue are without Hardik Pandya and Deepak Hooda for the three-match T20I series against South Africa, leaving them short of all-rounders.
While Hardik Pandya's influence as a batter has been paramount, his availability as a sixth-bowling option has opened many avenues for India. The all-rounder has bowled on a consistent basis since his return to the side.
Although he has been wicket-less across the last four matches, he has claimed 12 wickets in 2022 so far at an economy of 8.65.
Noting that India might have to tweak their approach now that Pandya is not a part of the playing XI, Chopra said:
"India will have to play with five bowlers and six batters, the balance is completely gone. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will have to give themselves time, because Pandya is not there in the middle order."
Shedding light on the in-form duo of Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, Chopra added:
"Kohli has interesting figures against South Africa, has a particularly poor record while batting first against them. Suryakumar has been great while chasing, but not that good while batting first."
Much like the batting department, there is a change in the offing among the bowlers as well, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being rested. The slot for the third seamer primarily comes down to between Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Chahar.
R Ashwin also emerges as a candidate to play considering the plethora of left-handed batters South Africa have.
Feeling that India might not go for such an experimentation at this stage, Chopra backed the spin duo of Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal to feature. He said:
"If Bumrah, Arshdeep, and Harshal Patel all feature, then there is no place for Deepak Chahar. So, when will you play him? Even if Mohammed Shami was there, when would he have played?
"South Africa have three left-handed batters, so is there a place for Ashwin in there? But, I don't think India will do such an experiment."
Ashwin was part of the playing XI for the Super 4s encounter in Asia Cup 2022 against Sri Lanka to counter their left-handed batters. He ended up with figures of 1-32 and retained his place for the final contest against Afghanistan as well.
"If you do not win the toss, then the chances of winning are going to plummet" - Aakash Chopra on Team India's prospect of securing a 1-0 lead in the series
The absence of Hardik Pandya and Deepak Hooda will allow Rishabh Pant to make his way back into the playing XI. The wicket-keeper batter only played one of the three T20Is against Australia and last batted in Asia Cup 2022.
Admitting that India's bowling is looking pretty weak with just five frontline options, Chopra said:
"Rishabh Pant will keep the wickets since he and Dinesh Karthik will both play this match. India without their sixth-bowling option are in a spot of bother, bowling is looking very weak. If you do not win the toss, then the chances of winning are going to plummet."
Team India are scheduled to take on South Africa in the first T20I of the series at the Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, September 28.
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