Rahul has been in sublime form, with the batter making 62 against Afghanistan in India’s last Super Four match of Asia Cup 2022. He has smashed three fifties in five bilateral matches against Australia and South Africa at home.
Rahul has continued his good showing since India landed in Australia in early October, making a patient 74 in the second practice match against Western Australia XI in Perth and followed it up with 57 in a warm-up match against Australia at The Gabba, Brisbane.
In his column for betway.com, Pietersen expressed confidence Rahul will be a class apart with the bat. “I love him. I think he is the No. 1 batter in the world at the moment. He is absolutely fantastic. With the ball bouncing, swinging and seaming, I think he plays in a very authentic way and is correct enough to rack up the runs,” opined Pietersen.
Pietersen though predicted England will win the title after their title run in the 2021 edition was cut short in the semifinal by New Zealand.
“This England white-ball team is absolutely spectacular. They really are. They’re fabulous to watch, they’ve got all bases covered, and I think they go in as favourites. It was a great victory in Pakistan (seven-match T20I series), a huge victory. And they’ve been very confident in the way they’ve played the warm-up games in Australia. It’s been the perfect build-up,” said Pietersen.
He also predicted England opener batter Alex Hales could emerge as the match winner.
“It’s a dust-off between (Phil) Salt and Hales for that top (opener’s) spot, and it’s going be interesting to see who they pick. It’ll be good if Hales does get the gig, purely based on the fact that he wins games. At the end of the day, it’s up to the players to agree on what the process is and whether a guy fits in. The most important point around all of this nonsense with Hales is the fact that he wins games of cricket for England,” said Pietersen.
Pietersen added that the “Stokes factor” would be huge in England’s title bid.
“It’s irrelevant when Ben Stokes last played this form of the game. He brings experience, aura, and a fear factor to this England side. When the opposition are doing all their matchday preparation, the man that will get talked about most is Stokes, because of what he can do, and what he has done in his career. He just brings that fear factor and that aura to the team.
“England are the favourites for me. They have strength in depth in all departments. They’ve got quality fast bowlers, a fantastic spinner in Adil Rashid, and their batting needs no introduction.”
He added that South Africa are the dark horses in the tournament.
“The reason why I say South Africa could be the dark horse is because, with the weather conditions that are knocking around, that South African bowling attack — Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada — could do some real damage. I’ve seen what Rabada and Nortje have done in the IPL when they played together for a season, and you can be 20 for five or 30 for six very quickly. Their batters won’t need to score that many runs to knock off those kind of totals.”
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