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Missing the team balance in Pandya’s absence: Dhawan

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Melbourne, Jan 17: Admitting that suspended all-rounder Hardik Pandya was "crucial" for the team's balance, India opener Shikhar Dhawan on Thursday said the team is not grappling with a fifth bowler conundrum in the ongoing ODI series against Australia.

Dhawan was speaking on the eve of the series-deciding third and final one-day international (ODI) between India and Australia here on Friday.

The team management is expected to make changes after Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj failed to impress in the first two contests.

With Pandya provisionally suspended for his sexist comments on a TV show, Dhawan said they are missing an all-rounder in the side.

"The balance that Hardik (Pandya) creates when he is in the team is very crucial," Dhawan acknowledged in the pre-match press conference.

"Even when Kedar (Jadhav) plays, the overs of off-spin he bowls are very beneficial for us and I would say he is our golden arm as he always takes wickets when he comes on. So often, he has broken big partnerships. An all-rounder in Tests and limited-overs cricket is equally important," he added.

Talking about Ahmed and Siraj, Dhawan said the youngsters will mature and get better with time.

"It's not a worry (about their bowling). They just came in and are young blokes. We will back them. That's how they're going to learn, when they play against a good side," he said.

"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," he added.

Dhawan stressed the team is hopeful of bagging the series and ma`king history as they will become the first ever team to win a bilateral ODI series on Australian soil, following up on the 2-1 Test series win here.

Dhawan also added that the batsmen finding form ahead of the World Cup bodes well for the team.

"Winning the series will mean a lot to us. Winning both Tests and if we win tomorrow, it is going to be a big achievement for us. We are going to value it and cherish it," Dhawan said.

"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 batsman at the other end," he expressed.

He also lauded the role played by Dinesh Karthik during the successful chase in the second ODI in Adelaide.

"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," he said.

Asked about his preparation when the Test series was on, Dhawan, who was not part of the squad, said: "I had 5-6 weeks off and I was training hard. It was good because, looking forward to the World Cup, it was a good break for me. Now I'm happy to be back in the side, playing matches and raring to go."

"I think my rhythm is there, the way I was hitting the ball. It is very important to take a break and feel fresh, which we Indian cricketers don't get much of, so we're not used to it," he said.

Talking about Friday's match, Dhawan said the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner is being felt but the hosts are a balanced unit.

"Australia have a good all-round side, they have a good balanced side. Of course the presence of Smith and Warner is missing in this side. They are legends of their country and big players in the cricket world," he said.

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