Hardik Pandya’s suspension following his comments in Koffee With Karan has come at a wrong time for the Indian cricket team, who are battling Australia in the three-match series and will play five ODIs against New Zealand. Pandya’s suspension has apparently hurt the team balance as the team heads into the final ODI against Australia in Melbourne with the series level 1-1 and it was acknowledged by Shikhar Dhawan who was speaking in the pre-match press conference. After losing the first game in Sydney by 34 runs, Virat Kohli’s side bounced back in style with a stunning six-wicket win in Adelaide with the skipper blasting his 39th century and a 69th fifty from MS Dhoni.
Dhawan, though, reiterated the importance of Pandya in the Indian cricket team. “The balance that Hardik (Pandya) creates when he's in the team is very crucial for our team. Even when Kedar (Jadhav) plays, the overs of off-spin he bowls are very beneficial for us...I would say he is our golden arm, and he always takes wickets when he comes on. So often, he's broken a big partnership. An all-rounder in Tests and limited-overs' cricket is equally important,” Dhawan said.
Pandya’s absence and the poor performance from Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj in Sydney and Adelaide have raised questions about the bowling unit, especially considering the composition. Khaleel conceded 55 runs in eight overs in Sydney while Siraj had the worst figures for an Indian debutant, conceding 76 runs in 10 overs in Adelaide. However, the left-hander was not too concerned with the bowling ‘woes’ of the side.
“It's not a worry (about the bowling). They just came in. They are young blokes. We will back them. That's how they're going to learn, when they play against a good side. If they go for runs, that's where they have to lift themselves up and think more about their game and strategies. That's how they'll become more mature players. It's good that they are getting chances over here,” Dhawan said.
The Delhi batsman also praised the efforts of MS Dhoni, who seemed to be getting his famous finishing touch back after his magnificent fifty helped India cross the line in a tense game in Adelaide. “It was good to see a good team performance in the last game, especially how Dhoni performed well in both the games. We are very happy that Dhoni is getting his touch back. Because a player of his stature, gives so much of confidence to the batsmen at the other end. The good thing is we have got all fit players and very mature players, very experienced. That makes us a very strong batting unit. And of course we have been performing very well and consistently over the past few years,” Dhawan reiterated.
India will be aiming to win a bilateral ODI series in Australia for the first time and if they win the match in Melbourne, they will become only the second team in history to win a series in all formats in Australia after South Africa.