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Former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir believes Team India will find themselves in troubled waters if the Rahul Dravid-coached side fails to identify a like-for-like replacement for one of their star performers in the lead-up to the ICC World Cup 2023. Under the leadership of stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya, a new-look Team India kickstarted the ODI World Cup year with an impressive win over Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.
White-ball maverick Pandya, who has been promoted as Rohit Sharma’s deputy in limited-overs cricket, guided the hosts to a thrilling two-run win over the Islanders in the T20I series opener. Replacing opener KL Rahul as Team India’s vice-captain, all-rounder Pandya is heavily tipped to succeed veteran opener Rohit as the next captain of the Men In Blue.
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Talking about the rapid rise of Pandya, former Indian opener Gambhir opined that India need to rope in a backup for the all-rounder in the white-ball setup. “They need to quickly identify a backup for Hardik; if something happens to him, India will be in serious, serious trouble,” Gambhir told Star Sports. Pandya-led Team India will meet Sri Lanka in the T20I series decider at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.
The two-time World Cup winner also asserted that the seasoned campaigners at Team India should remain keen on playing ODI cricket in the World Cup year. As far as workload management is concerned, Gambhir feels that players can prioritise ODI cricket by taking a break from the shortest format in 2023.
“This year [the core group should be focusing on] ODIs for sure. If they want to take a break, people who are playing all three formats, they can definitely take a break from T20 cricket but surely not from ODI format. They have got to play together – I think the biggest mistake Indian cricket has made in the last probably two World Cups has been that they [the core players], these guys have not played enough cricket [in the lead up to the World Cups] together,” Gambhir added.
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