Former Pakistan pacer Waqar Younis previewed the the India vs Pakistan match ahead of the big at the ‘G’. Younis was excited to see the battle between India’s batsmen and the Pakistan bowlers.
Q: Both India and Pakistan have a good set of openers — Rohit Sharma/KLRahul and Babar Azam / Mohammad Rizwan — could they be the game changers?
A: “It’s (openers) important in T20 format. It doesn’t mean where you are playing. It’s a fast game so you need to formulate a plan according to your team combination. But in T20 you need a fiery start. If you put 50-60 runs in the power play then it’s easy for middle-order batsman to put the decent total on the board. If a team has good bowling attack, they can thwart you your chances to score runs in middle overs. Openers should consistently give big start for their teams without losing wickets. They have to work on this if they need to grab the World Cup title.”
Q: The impact of Rohit Sharma as captain and batsman..
A: I like him as a leader and a batsman. In the shortest format, opener’s role is to hit the ball and sometimes you play bad shots in that attempt. It happens in international cricket. Everyone wants to see the big knock from his willow. We don’t need to look at the numbers in past. The best part about Rohit is that, he’s never looked under pressure. Being a skipper he needs to look each and every aspect. But you definitely see him making an impact in the World Cup.
Q: Some big names like Rohit, Rahul and Babar are not getting big runs consistently, is that a worry for the teams?
A: “It’s not like that. Yes, in Asia Cup, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were not as successful as the team needed. It doesn’t mean they are bad batsmen. They only need one innings, which they will get eventually. Rohit give you pick up shots early in the innings, and Rahul gives you good cover drives. It’s just a matter of confidence.
Look at Virat Kohli, he was not in form for a long time. But he got half-century against Sri Lanka and century against Afghanistan (in the Asia Cup). I think he has got his confidence back. Same thing with Pakistan team, Babar is not getting runs concisely as Rizwan is contributing major share. But big batsmen need only one knock to gain the form back. For eg: David Warner and Aaron Finch give them powerful start often.
Their main role to just put 70 odd runs in power play. In T20 format power hitting is must in initial overs. If you get true tracks in Australia, these batsman can play their shots with confidence. I am confident that both India and Pakistan have powerful batting lineup from top to middle-order and they will find the range.
Q: Do you think No 3 batsmen have as important role in T20 as in other formats like Kohli or Zaman?
A: “It is a Very crucial position. If you lose one or two wickets in power play, you need to someone to stay on the wicket. You just take a look at every team, all of them have a prominent batsman at No 3. India have Virat Kohli and Pakistan have Fakhar Zaman and so are other teams.
One of the Top three players role to take the innings till end and bat with lower middle-order. It helps you to place a big total on the board. We saw the Kushal Mendis example in Asia Cup for Sri Lanka. The game requires an anchor.
Q: There is a raging debate on whether India should include Pant or Karthik in the 11..what’s the way forward?
A: “It’s tough call. In an ideal situation you can give a chance to both the players in playing XI. But in this set up only one player can get the chance. In recent past Dinesh Kartik has done rally well. The role team management has given to him…he has perfectly defined that. India have a luxury that they have a choices. I really love to watch Pant’s batting. But he’s lacking the momentum in middle overs.
People are saying that India has to send him on top of the order but it changes the entire combination. To send Rishabh after Suryakumar Yadav, I don’t think it works, as he needs to bat in top 3. But he is young and will get his chances.
Q: The change in team dynamics, all-rounders like Hardik Pandya can bring…
A: “I always felt he’s a utility player. It’s good for India that he can bowl four overs and take a wicket and also played big knocks in middle order. If team loose early wickets, he take his time and stay on the wickets and in slog overs he plays the big hits.
There are other players who can do this job: England have Ben Stokes and Australia have Marcus Stoinis, who can be the medium pace all-rounder. Indian team is fortunate that they have this kind of player with them.
Pakistan is lacking on this department after Azher Mehmood and Abdul Razaak. One more think about Hardik is that I feel he looks more calm now and it must be after leading Gujarat Titans. When you need 15 runs in an over in slog overs, you can’t see pressure on his face. He looks confident and he knows that I can achieve the target. In my opinion, sooner or later he will have the capacity to lead the Indian team.
Q: How do you rate this Pakistan team?
A: Many of these players are familiar with the ebb and flow of the T20 cricket through Pakistan Super League and other leagues. So, we have a good bunch of players. Our middle order players can change the game. Batsman like Khushdil, Nawaz, Shadab & Asif Ali can change the game in middle overs. But they need to stay on the wicket.
You can’t compare 90’s Pakistani team which was dominating in world cricket. In the bowling department under Shaheen shah Afridi entire unit is doing well. We have a good variety of players. We have five quality pace bowlers who are in mid 20’s and bowling with the speed of 140mph.
But our surprise package is Naseem Shah. On Australian pitches he will be the dangerous bowler for opponent. If these two can give the early break through for us then Shadab & Nawaz will do rest of the work. Yeah, it will be a battle between Shaheen, Naseem and India batsmen.”