Former Indian Test opener Aakash Chopra believes that if Hardik Pandya starts bowling regularly, the all-rounder will make things easier for India in the upcoming T20 World Cup. The 27-year-old from Baroda has been a reluctant bowler ever since injuring his back during the 2018 Asia Cup.
Since 2020, Pandya has played six ODIs and eight T20Is and has bowled only 30 overs. And, the right-arm seamer hasn't bowled a single over in the last two editions of the IPL. The management has been keeping a close eye on his lingering shoulder and back injury but Chopra wants him to contribute more in the bowling department.
"You were looking at him for Test cricket but he is not available for you there as well because he is not bowling. When you look at it from that vantage point, there is only one player like Hardik Pandya, he provides balance," Chopra said on his YouTube channel.
"Hardik Pandya as a fast-bowling all-rounder, Ravindra Jadeja as a spinning all-rounder and Washington Sundar with them, it becomes a superb team.
"Six to eight (overs) in ODIs and should bowl his full quota in T20s and IPL, and then definitely in the World Cup because Hardik Pandya bowling makes it easier for India to get the right balance."
Talking about India's opening combination for the World Cup, Chopra said: "India have a lot of choices. Shikhar Dhawan is one, KL Rahul is the second and then you’ve got Virat Kohli too. And I would like to add Prithvi Shaw. The brand of cricket that he plays is amazing, it’s not necessary that he will score in every match but the day he scores, he will be unstoppable.
"In the end, it might just be a toss-up between Rahul and Kohli. Rahul might just win that race because now Pant will come in the middle order so there is no need for Rahul to play that role. Hardik Pandya, Pant and Ravindra Jadeja can handle the middle order duties. So I would play Rahul up the order and Kohli at 3 or maybe the other way around.
However, Chopra said it will be difficult to ignore Dhawan if the left-hander does well on the tour of Sri Lanka. With Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in England, Dhawan has been appointed as India's captain for the Sri Lanka tour. Dhawan has been impressive in the last two seasons of IPL and also provides that left-hand option at the top.
"If Shikhar Dhawan scores two hundreds and three fifties in the Sri Lanka tour then how will you rule him out? He anyway plays well in the IPL, so does Prithvi Shaw. So, it’s an interesting situation, I would call it a sweet headache for Indian selectors."