Ahead of the India Vs South Africa clash at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday, Indian team head coach Rahul Dravid has told reporters that his team is ready to go through the remainder of the tournament with just five main bowling options and rely on India’s “wrong-footed, in-swinging menace”, following the news of Hardik Pandya’s exit from the tournament.
India all-rounder Pandya was officially ruled out of the tournament through injury this weekend, replaced in the squad by fast bowler Prasidh Krishna.
And with Pandya out, India are expected to continue with the balance of the team they have used in recent weeks, with Suryakumar Yadav at No.6 and just five recognised bowlers in the XI.
Dravid admitted that such a selection is not ideal, but jokingly pointed to Kohli as an option, with the batter having sent down three deliveries to finish Pandya’s over against Bangladesh earlier in the group stage.
“The fact is that we will not be in a position to have a proper sixth option,” Dravid said.
“We do have the option to call upon our wrong-footed, in-swinging menace. And with the crowd behind him, I'd back him for a couple of overs there and a few wickets.
“The crowd was demanding his bowling in the last game. We came very close to giving him an over. And then we've got Surya who can turn his arm over a little bit. And Rohit's bowled a bit as well.
“I mean, obviously, the sixth option is something that Hardik gave us. But we have been playing the last four games without the sixth bowling option. We also played a couple of games in the Australia series before the World Cup without the sixth option.”
India’s decision to call up Prasidh Krishna into the squad doesn’t necessarily mean that India will continue with their current balance, argued Dravid.
And the India coach was keen to spell out why the fast bowler was the player they brought into the mix.
“I think it's a pretty obvious thought process. After Hardik has been injured, which he has been for the last two or three games, and then obviously didn't play a couple of the games in the Australia series as well, we have played with a combination which has been three fast bowlers and two spinners," Dravid said.
“In the guys sitting outside the team in the 15, we had a backup for the spin, we had a backup for the batting, and we had a backup in the bowling all-rounder category.
“So, we did recognise that if this is a combination we're going to take, and if there is an issue of an illness, or a small niggle, then we need to have a backup for the seam bowlers.
“It doesn't mean that we can't play other combinations. But if this is the one combination that which we have gone with recently, then that is the one area which we possibly hadn't backed up with the injury to Hardik.”
India’s next opponents are South Africa, the other side to have already qualified for the knockout stages.
But Dravid says that the team are certainly not looking at this match as a dress rehearsal for the final in a fortnight’s time.
“We are not seeing it that way. We are just seeing it as a game in the league phase against a team that is playing some very good cricket and looking forward to it," he said.
“We know it's one of the league games in the tournament, and both the teams, whether it's us or whether it's South Africa, we still need to earn the right to be there in Ahmedabad.”
Earlier, New Zealand’s loss to Pakistan on Saturday confirmed South Africa as having joined India in the semi-finals, but the exact make-up of the final four is yet to be determined.