The renowned Indian cricket commentator and journalist, Harsha Bhogle, spoke about what approach India should have while going into the important 2nd Test. Some of the main questions were – Where should Hardik Pandya bat, if he has to bat at all? What combination of batsmen and bowlers should India have? Should there be recognition of KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane?
India entered the South Africa tour with much caution but with more expectations. It was predicted that India will topple the Proteas after decades of being dominated. However, things didn’t turn out the way they should have in the 1st Test in Cape Town. India made some tinkerings to their squad as they gave a test debut cap to Jasprit Bumrah and left Ajinkya Rahane out, who was thought to be well suited for overseas conditions.
Harsha Bhogle told Cricbuzz,
“One of the things we see on difficult away tours, and it is exactly the same when teams come to India, is that at the end of the 1st test, the number of questions start to grow and the number of answers start to diminish. India have had a poor first test, they have had their moments but they are 1-0 down now what do they do from here.”
Bowlers were excellent, but what to do about batting?
“Well, for a start, the bowling picks itself. Those answers are alright. Bhuvneshwar Kumar picks himself, Jasprit Bumrah has had a fantastic debut. Shami who looked sluggish in the 1st inning suddenly woke up and came to life and produced a wonderful spell. I think those seamers picked themselves.”
But what do you do now with the batting? Its very tempting to make changes so what do you say? Do you say that Shikhar Dhawan is struggling with the bounce so let’s replace him with KL Rahul. It seems a possibility but as Shaun Pollock said when we were talking to him in our studio, ‘There’s always a learning which takes place on an overseas tour’. Now KL Rahul hasn’t played any cricket so his learning will start in the 2nd test match if he is picked.
KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan not a game-changer
While it was no-brainer that Shikhar Dhawan struggled to connect the Kookaburra in Cape Town with his bat, Harsha Bhogle says that he should stay. The reason behind this is that if India bring KL Rahul in as a replacement, the alien conditions will take some learning to do. And Shikhar Dhawan has already learnt his bit in the 1st Test, so will it be a wise decision to replace him now? Harsha Bhogle said,
“Shikhar Dhawan has already gone through that learning and probably knows now what not to do. So it’s a tricky question for the side, do you say ‘Shikhar Dhawan looks really vulnerable to the bounce, let’s replace him with KL Rahul’. I don’t know if that will be a game changing thing but, thats one possibility for India.”
Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya and Squad combination
Harsha Bhogle discussed the Ajinkya Rahane and Hardik Pandya conundrum at length and said,
“Then there is Rohit Sharma vs Ajinkya Rahane, but I think the bigger question for India is the balance. That is a question that has finally grown after the 1st Test match, Now Hardik Pandya has had a fantastic test match but the question that still asks itself is, ‘Is Hardik Pandya a no. 7 or a no.6?”
“Even after that 93, he came in at no.7 in the second innings. If Hardik Pandya is no. 7, and the fourth seamer, then India have to pick 5 bowlers and 5 batsmen. If you want to pick a 6th batsman, then you either say that I’m so happy with Hardik Pandya that I’m picking Hardik Pandya as a batsman and as a backup seamer.”
India should currently look at Pandya as a batsman
“But if you are not sure about Pandya as a 6th batsman, is he one of four bowlers? Then you can say that I’ll pick Rahane, I’ll pick Rohit Sharma, I’ve got my six batsmen, I’ve got the wicket keeper. Now is Pandya the third seamer in my side? I’m not sure about that. If you are going to leave out the spinner, and play four seamers. Is Pandya one of four bowlers? That is the call that the team has to take at the moment.”
“I think going ahead, Pandya has to be in the side as the 6th batsman. And going in that 2nd test match, that is the one thing that I’ll be very very keen to see. Do India look at Hardik Pandya as the sixth batsman because that will determine what the balance of the side is.”
India not going to make major changes
“My feeling is that now that India are down, the running has to be done by India. India will have to show that they want to win the series. I think India will still go with 5 batsmen, Pandya, three seamers, a spinner. So I think India will only be tinkering with the batting, there will not be any major changes.”