After a valiant 90-run knock in the first ODI, Hardik Pandya came into the limelight once again in the second encounter against Australia on Sunday when he bowled in top-flight cricket for the first time in over a year.
Coming in to help the bowling unit, Pandya started off well with a decent first over. He conceded just five runs against a rampaging Steve Smith (104) and Marnus Labuchabugne (70) at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The 27-year-old all-rounder, who has remodelled his action to reduce the stress on his body, scalped the wicket of Smith in his third over as he lured him into slashing a short delivery straight into the hands of Mohammed Shami.
At the end of the innings, Pandya returned impressive figures of 1/24 in four overs.
The rest of the bowling unit of India, which even featured Mayank Agarwal in the second ODI, failed to nab wickets at intervals and curb the explosive run-rate of Australia. While Shami and Jasprit Bumrah did get one wicket each, they were plundered for 152 runs together.
Even Gautam Gambhir highlighted the problem with the team in an interaction with ESPNCricinfo. “It’s been happening since what… the last World Cup. If Hardik Pandya is not fit, where is your sixth bowling option?” he said.
“Yes, you can talk about putting in Manish Pandey, but again, even if Rohit Sharma comes back into the Playing XI, the problem which you’re facing right now, you will face it then as well because there is no one in the top six who can give you’re a couple of overs.”
“From India’s point of view, if Hardik Pandya is not fit, where is your replacement? It’s only Vijay Shankar whom I can think of but does he have the same impact batting at No. 5 or 6. Can he give you 7-8 overs? I’ve got my doubts,” he added.
Pandya underwent a back surgery in October last year in the UK. His lower back had been troubling him since the Test series in England in 2018.
The surgery kept him out of action for almost a year, with the all-rounder last playing a T20 International against South Africa at home in September 2019.
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