India will miss all-rounder Pandya: coach

The Indian cricket team are feeling the loss all-rounder Hardik Pandya (C), who has a back injury.
The Indian cricket team are feeling the loss all-rounder Hardik Pandya (C), who has a back injury.

Former captain MS Dhoni may be a glaring omission but coach Ravi Shastri says India will be hardest hit by all-rounder Hardik Pandya's absence in Australia.

India will be without the inspirational Dhoni in their tour-opening, three-match Twenty20 International series that starts in Brisbane on Wednesday after the veteran wicket keeper was rested by selectors.

But Shastri believes Pandya's withdrawal from both the T20 and four-Test series - starting in Adelaide on December 6 - with a back injury has created the biggest headache by upsetting team balance.

Dhoni, 37, has been replaced in the T20 squad by exciting 'keeper Rishabh Pant, one of the 2018 Indian Premier League standouts.

Shastri says it remains to be seen how selectors would cover the absence of Pandya in Australia.

"One player we will miss is Hardik Pandya, who has an injury," he said.

"He gives us that balance to the side as a bowler and a batsman which allows you to play that extra bowler - now we have to think twice.

"Hopefully he will get fit soon, the fast bowlers do well and we might not miss him too much."

India have insisted that Dhoni, who retired from Tests in 2014, remains in their future T20 and limited overs plans.

And the big hitting gloveman may yet be sighted by Australian crowds in their three-game one-day series in January.

India are yet to name their ODI squad.

Dhoni's 21-year-old T20 replacement Pant recently earned his Test and ODI debut after thrashing 394 runs at a strike-rate of 173.60 at the 2018 IPL.

But Shastri seemed more concerned about coping without Pandya.

He said the Indian attack would have to pick up the slack without the fast bowling all-rounder on Australian decks that have not been kind to them in the past.

In fact, India have struggled overall in Australia, winning just five of 44 Tests played Down Under since 1947.

They have never won a Test series in Australia.

India have brought world-class spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav on the Australian tour along with seamers Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.

The batting will again be led by captain Virat Kohli and his T20 deputy Rohit Sharma but all eyes will be on 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw who last month became the youngest Indian to score a century on Test debut.

World No.2 India are overwhelming favourites for their tour opening T20 series starting in Brisbane on Wednesday after winning 10 of their 15 overall clashes against Australia in the shortest form.

Australian Associated Press