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ICC SPECIAL BY ASHIS RAY: India should try Hardik Pandya at No. 4

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Southampton: India's captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri with Hardik Pandya during a practice session ahead of a World Cup 2019 match against Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS) by .
India's captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri with Hardik Pandya during a practice session ahead of a World Cup 2019 match against Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)

India will do well to settle with Hardik Pandya at number 4. He’s not under any kind of pressure and, therefore, he can play his natural game. With extra time to play himself in, Pandya can take the game away from any opposition… ASHIS RAY 

Southampton: India's captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri with Hardik Pandya during a practice session ahead of a World Cup 2019 match against Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS) by .
India’s captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri with Hardik Pandya during a practice session ahead of a World Cup 2019 match against Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)

Conditions at Edgbaston can vary dramatically between being batting friendly to fast bowler friendly. England had amassed 408/9 against New Zealand here in 2015. However, in the two matches played here in the ongoing World Cup, totals have been below 250 and the pacers have dominated.

The weather forecast for Sunday’s high-voltage clash between India and England is “partly cloudy” with a high of 21 degrees Celsius. There could be more cloud cover during the first innings than the second.

An overcast sky, with the temperature not too high, normally lends to a bit of swing in England. But the white Kookaburra ball with its flat seam doesn’t move much. Therefore, batsmen should be watchful, but not worry too much.

Also, India will do well to settle with Hardik Pandya at number 4. He’s not under any kind of pressure and, therefore, he can play his natural game. With extra time to play himself in, Pandya can take the game away from any opposition.

India’s strategy of playing two wrist spinners is certainly out-of-the-box in English conditions, where finger spinners have historically been preferred. Besides, Kuldeep Yadav is not deceiving the batsmen. He is also bowling very few googlies. Is he holding the wrong‘un back for the knockout stage?

Ashis Ray. (Photo: Twitter/@ashiscray) by .
Ashis Ray. (Photo: Twitter/@ashiscray)

The fortuitous inclusion of Mohammed Shami has proved that quicker bowlers thrive in the first half of an English summer. He has captured eight wickets in two matches, which begs the question why was he on the bench in the first place? Three seamers would have been the right choice. But with temperatures rising and wickets likely to get drier, two spinners would undoubtedly justified. India, though, should not rule out the option of Ravindra Jadeja’s finger spin.

England have an excellent trio of express bowlers in Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, who have beaten the bat not got their just rewards so far. So, India need to be wary of this. Their top six batsmen have an impressive track record, but they could feel the pressure of a must-win situation.

(London-based senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a former broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)

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