Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes is all praise to young India players Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Hooda. The legendary cricketer reckons Hooda is capable of contributing with the bat anywhere in the Indian batting line-up going into the T20 World Cup.

The selectors on Monday (September 12) announced the 15-member India squad in which Hooda also earned a spot owing to his performances in the 2022 season. The right-handed batter from Baroda became the fifth cricketer from India to slam a ton in the T20Is to enter an elite club.

Responding to MyKhel’s queries in Kanpur, on the sidelines of the Road Safety World Series 2022, the South Africa Legends skipper shared his opinion on the talent pool which India possesses, the impact of India’s exit from the Asia Cup Super 4 stage and the rise in infrastructure in the tier one and two cities in India.

Rhodes – who has been a part of the IPL franchise Punjab Kings’ coaching setup since 2020 – has personally seen the growth of several youngsters up close. Praising the young bunch of players, who earned their spot in the current Indian side on the back of good performances in the IPL, the legendary cricketer claimed the youngsters deserve a place in the national side.

While praising Bishnoi, Rhodes said, “I think Ravi Bishnoi is a promising young talent for India from the leg-spinning point of view because the art of leg-spin has changed. It’s kind of evolved and has gone back to being flatter and straighter and he’s a young player who can have an impact.”

Lauding Hooda, Rhodes said, “Also, I love watching Deepak Hooda and I think he can contribute with the bat anywhere in the lineup. But when you talk about young players, I think India is blessed to have players with so much of skills in the batting line-up so not many young players get an opportunity. So Hooda for me is someone who has taken on the chances that he’s had. He’s got a hundred and that’s great to see. Arshdeep Singh is also someone that I love watching bowl because I have spent a lot of time with him in the Punjab Kings setup.”

Speaking about the crowd and the good infrastructure in India, Rhodes – who has been touring India since the 90s – said, “The crowd has always been exceptional but the facilities have always been on the rise here. Since the 2011 World Cup which India hosted the venues have got better. All the different leagues that are coming up have received a great response from sponsors, from the states and the Ministry of Sports is giving back to the game. So it’s amazing from that point of view. During my playing days, we only used to get to play in the metro cities where the facilities were good but not in tier one and tier two cities. So it’s incredible to see facilities matching international standards across India.”

While speaking about the rich pool of talents which Indian cricket possess and asked whether the problem of plenty is hampering Team India, the 53-year-old said, “Because of a tournament like IPL and the BCCI’s Future Tours Programmes, the young guys are getting the opportunities to show what they’ve got. So in a way, it’s a blessing as you have a big pool of players, but it could also be quite difficult because you are giving opportunities to so many guys. So it sometimes becomes difficult from the team’s point of view because a T20 player needs to understand his role on the side and you need to practice your role.”

The Protea said people shouldn’t read too much into Team India’s exit from the Asia Cup 2022 and that the defeat could be a wake-up call. “The problem with India is that there are a remarkable amount of players available and giving them an opportunity (could be challenging). Obviously, in a world cup year, it’s quite difficult because you want to be settled on to a formula within the team and want that team to play together. The one thing around this Indian set-up is that there are such good talented young players and to give everyone an opportunity before the cutoff date of squad announcement is quite difficult. But they’ve got players who can switch in and switch on. And before the World Cup, the practice has been done and when you lose where you were supposed to win, maybe that’s a good incentive,” he signed off.