World Cup-winning India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh said India will find it a little difficult to get the batting combination right in the absence of injured Shikhar Dhawan at the Cricket World Cup 2019.
On Tuesday, it emerged that Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of World Cup 2019 for 3 weeks after scans revealed he had a fractured thumb. Dhawan’s injury is a massive blow to India who have won both their matches so far in the tournament and are firm favourites to reach the semifinals.
Shikhar Dhawan had sustained the injury during India’s 36-run victory over defending world champions Australia at The Oval. Despite the injury, Dhawan went on to score a stylish 117 as India posted a record 352 for 5 off their 50 overs.
It is not yet clear whether the Indian team will name a replacement for Dhawan but chances are either Shreyas Iyer or Rishabh Pant could be called up to replace Shikhar Dhawan who has 6 hundreds in ICC tournaments.
“If it is going to be 3 weeks, it means the majority of the tournament is gone. And without Shikhar Dhawan who was the Man of the Match against Australia, it means Indian team will find it a little bit difficult.
Harbhajan added: “It’s going to be a challenge. This is a big blow. I would have loved to see Shikhar playing all the games. He is a big-match player. It’s a good opportunity for Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant to be part of the squad. If anything goes wrong with Shikhar Dhawan for more than 3 weeks, then I would want to pick Pant.
“Well, it could be 3 weeks depending on how bad the injury is. In the end, it will come down to how Shikhar Dhawan will feel batting with the injured finger. Even if the injury heals, it will depend on him to get fully fit. If Vijay Shankar comes in at No. 4, I don’t feel that confident about the move,” Harbhajan added.
Harbhajan Singh also said Ajinkya Rahane can be tried as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan if India decide to go in with experience.
Notably, Rahane has been playing county cricket for Hampshire in the United Kingdom after the Indian Premier League 2019. The India batsman last played ODIs for the senior national team in February 2018 but Harbhajan feels his experience will come in handy in English conditions.
“He [Rahane] is a very good option to be considered. He has been playing cricket here. He is one of the middle order batsmen to rely on. He has got the technique to bat at No.3, No.4. He was one of India’s best batsmen at the 2015 World Cup. It would be a bad call to ask him to join the team from here itself. I would still like to see the injury as to how long Shikhar Dhawan is gone. You can straightaway have him in the squad after it heals. You want to be fully fit. Shikhar Dhawan himself won’t take a chance. A fracture ideally takes more than 3 weeks,” Harbhajan said.
However, Harbhajan said his first choice replacement for Dhawan would be Rishabh Pant: “At the moment, if I have to pick one replacement player, it would be Rishabh Pant or if you want to go for experience, then it would be Ajinkya Rahane.”