IND vs SA 2022: "Without Hardik Pandya, India looks a weaker team" - Aakash Chopra concerned with the balance of the team without the all-rounder 

India v Australia - T20 International Series: Game 1
India will likely have to go in with five players in the absence of Hardik Pandya

Former India cricketer Aakash Chopra has expressed concern over the team's balance without Hardik Pandya. The all-rounder will not partake in the upcoming three-match T20I series against South Africa and is instead set to report to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) ahead of T20 World Cup 2022.

The Baroda-born player is a vital cog in the Indian team, especially in the shortest format. Since his return to the side, India have been able to deploy him as a sixth-bowler on a consistent basis, while his growing stature as a batter has also eased things.

He has managed to register his best T20I figures and highest score over the last few months, which shows the form he is in.

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Admitting that India look the weaker side in comparison to South Africa with Hardik Pandya not part of the squad, Chopra said on his YouTube channel:

"Last time around Markram was not there, de Kock played only one match, so the team looked a little weak and in search of balance. But, nothing like that will happen this time.
"I personally fear this team, this team has the potential to go very far in the World Cup as well. Without Hardik Pandya, India looks like a slightly weaker team."

South Africa are yet to lose a T20I series in India so far. They came out as 2-0 winners during their first bilateral series on Indian soil in 2015 and have gone onto secure draws in 2019 and 2022.

"I think India will lose this game" - Aakash Chopra predicts South Africa to go 1-0 up in the series

Apart from the upcoming three-match bilateral series, the two nations will also square off in T20 World Cup 2022 after being drawn in the same Super 12s group.

"I expect a good, strong and competitive series." #Proteas captain Temba Bavuma#INDvSA #BePartOfIt

Predicting India to lose the series opener primarily because of Hardik Pandya's absence and their death bowling woes, Chopra said:

"I think India will lose this game. Hardik Pandya is not available for the series, that is not a big issue. But, Bhuvneshwar Kumar's absence is a problem because he was not bowling well, he has been way too expensive in the death overs.
"He was also getting hit with the new ball over the last few matches. I am not feeling 100 percent confident."

The Men in Blue find themselves without Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya for the series. Arshdeep Singh makes a return to the side after missing out on the T20Is against Australia.

Other changes to the squad include the inclusions of Shreyas Iyer and Deepak Hooda, while Mohammed Shami continues to be absent due to COVID-19.

Claiming that Harshal Patel's form is the primary issue at present rather than the player, Chopra added:

"It takes time for a player to find his rhythm after coming back from injury, which can be seen in Harshal Patel's case. He bowled the final over well in the third T20I, that too because Tim David had refused a single. He is not the problem, his form is."

Who will win the first T20I between India and South Africa? Let us know what you think.

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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