NEW DELHI: Team India‘s strategy for their upcoming match against England in the ICC ODI World Cup has been thrown into uncertainty due to the unavailability of star all-rounder Hardik Pandya. The absence of Hardik, who typically bats at number six and contributes as the third seamer, has created a challenging scenario for the Indian team management ahead of the crucial clash.
In the match in Dharamsala, where Hardik was unavailable, India had to make two changes to their lineup.Despite the changes, India managed to secure their fifth consecutive win in the tournament, retaining their status as the only unbeaten side.

With Hardik in the side, Team India enjoys the luxury of having six bowling options. However, in his absence, the team is expected to field five bowlers against a struggling England.

While this approach worked against New Zealand, it could potentially backfire in future games. To cover for Hardik’s all-rounder abilities, Mohammad Shami and Suryakumar Yadav were brought into the side, while Shardul Thakur had to make way.

India have adopted a flexible strategy throughout the World Cup, tailoring their playing eleven to suit the conditions of each venue. Ashwin is often included as the number eight in spin-friendly conditions, and Shardul takes his place on flat tracks. However, the situation becomes more complicated when Hardik is not available.

For the match against England, who are likely to face spin-friendly conditions, if Ashwin takes the field, India could find themselves with just two specialist pacers in the side. Jasprit Bumrah is an automatic inclusion, but there might be a choice to be made between Mohammad Siraj and Mohammad Shami, the latter having raised selection concerns with his impressive five-wicket haul in Dharamsala.

Former India spinner and selector Sarandeep Singh believes that India should have a sixth bowling option, even in Hardik’s absence. This could require the likes of Virat Kohli to contribute a few overs in the middle. Kohli and Shubman Gill were seen bowling in the nets during practice.
Sarandeep stated, “There should be six bowling options with or without Hardik. Other teams have started to up their game. What if Bumrah has a bad day? Kuldeep got hit the other day but he bounced back. Teams have not been able to score 350 against us, but it can happen. If you are not going to get a sixth bowler, then you will need someone like Kohli to chip in with two or three overs. India must plan for all scenarios, and I am sure they are doing that.”
England, though underperforming as defending champions, possess a squad full of match-winners. They may choose an aggressive approach, attempting to disrupt India’s plans, and attack Indian spinners like Kuldeep Yadav.

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With the ultimate goal being winning the World Cup, India could benefit from exploring additional bowling options, both with and without Ashwin in the side. Once Hardik returns, the rotation between Ashwin and Shardul is likely to continue, offering India a more versatile lineup.
(With inputs from PTI)

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