Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul have provided a big distraction for the Indian team by making “inappropriate” comments on women during a TV show. In the build-up to the first ODI, skipper Virat Kohli underlined that the team management is still waiting for a decision to be made regarding a ban or punishment to be meted out to the two players.
Hit hard by an unexpected controversy after the high of the Test triumph, India will look to fine tune their World Cup preparations in the three-match ODI series against an under-fire Australia, beginning here on Saturday.
The team management didn’t announce a shortlist for this game, as is now the norm, and will wait to hear from the BCCI on the two players’ availability. Considering the enormity of this developing situation which is unlike that both Pandya and Rahul will be available for at least the first ODI.
Rahul was unlikely to get a go owing to both his poor form and the presence of a well-settled opening pair in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The bigger question though is regarding Pandya’s absence, for the all rounder provides crucial balance to the ODI side with his ability to bowl 10 overs as well as bat in the middle order. Pandya’s absence could mean that India might have to rejig their bowling attack. Jasprit Bumrah has already been rested for this series, as well as the tour of New Zealand, and this allows the think tank to conduct one final experiment with their bowling attack.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a shoe-in, and thereafter it depends if Kohli wants to go in with a three man pace attack to compensate for Pandya’s loss. In such a scenario, Mohammed Shami and Khaleel Ahmed are expected to get the nod, as India continue zeroing on the pace quartet for the World Cup squad. There is a sprinkling of grass on the SCG pitch and it could push the Indian skipper to opt for a three-pacer and two-spinner combination.