With lots of excitement around the high-stakes clash, former India cricketer Suresh Raina, a member of the 2011 ODI World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy triumphs, believes the Rohit Sharma-led side need to start the tournament well and the rest of the campaign will fall in place for them.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, Raina, named as the India brand ambassador for Booking.com, the official accommodation booking partner for the T20 World Cup, talks about the India-Pakistan clash, absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja affecting the Indian team, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s role as pace spearhead and how does Rishabh Pant fit in the playing eleven. Excerpts:
Q. On October 23, India will be facing Pakistan in their T20 World Cup campaign opener. What are your thoughts about this high-octane clash at the MCG?
A. You just need to enjoy the game, to be honest. That’s what team India is going to do. The match will be in a very high-pressure manner. You just need to play 40 overs of good cricket as playing in Australia is a different condition altogether. India has the edge because they have played a lot of matches there.
Rohit, Virat, K.L (Rahul) and other bowlers have played lots of matches there and know how to use the conditions. So, this game will be very, very important for team India. If we win the first one, that will set the tone for us and then, all the other matches will be very, very good for us. India just need to start well and everything will fall in place.
Q. India are missing Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja in the T20 World Cup. According to you, how much will the Indian team be affected by these two players missing out on the showpiece event?
A. Though they got injured, we still have got their replacements. I know you can’t replace them because, at the end of the day, you need to only think about the controllable things. Definitely, Shami comes in now and Axar Patel is also doing well. You need to have the right combination and which player you want to go with.
I would say the team is looking good now. They have gone to Australia very early, so they must be going through a lot of good processes and how to tackle the other teams. Sometimes it’s good to go early and can assess the situation and learn about it.
We have Suryakumar Yadav, then Rohit Sharma is a very good leader, Virat is in very, very good form now and Hardik Pandya will be the key member of the Indian team. He will bowl a couple of good overs in power-play, then he has to bat really well.
Then you have Arshdeep Singh, (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Yuzvendra) Chahal. The K.L Rahul-Rohit Sharma partnership will be crucial and you need to have that fearless intent to bat, then I think everything will fall into place.
Q. In Bumrah’s absence, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be the most experienced fast bowler in the Indian squad. As someone who has known him for many years, do you feel he can play the role of the pace spearhead and guide bowlers like Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh, who will be playing in Australian conditions for the first time?
A. Bhuvi is an experienced bowler. He has done really well. Sometimes you go for runs, but he still has that swing. He is still the go-to guy for the skipper because he always delivers when it mattered the most. When Virat scored a hundred, he also took five wickets against Afghanistan and bowled really well. He has that knuckleball, swing and he hits areas well.
Once you get that line and length, he knows how to execute those plans and he will do really well there because Australian conditions will give his knuckleball and variations help. Alongside Arshdeep and Harshal, Bhuvi will help them with his extra experience and will do really well for India.
Q. Rishabh Pant has been in and out of the T20I side in the last couple of matches for the Indian team. Also, he has batted either in the middle order or opened the batting. So, where do you see him fitting in India’s T20I scheme of things in the T20 World Cup and in the future as well?
A. He’s an important player. He has done it (made runs previously) in Australia. He’s scored hundreds there and won the Gabba Test for us. He’s an x-factor because if you see from 1-6, there’s no leftie batter.
So, how they are going to use him, it’s very important. He’s a very good player and knows how to bat in pressure situations. Hopefully, the management must be thinking about how to bring him in. So, in one or two games, you could see him playing again.
Q. Also, where would you prefer to see Pant bat in T20Is? Will it be as an opener, one down, or in the middle order?
A. It depends on where his spot is coming from. It’s all upon Rahul bhai and Rohit, how they want to use him in the eleven. You just need to have a leftie batsman as an x-factor. I hope they will do it.
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