KOLKATA: Former hitter Suresh Raina feels left-handed Rishabh Pants could be the X factor for India alongside Hardik Pandya in the future ICC T20 World Cup.
Versatile player Ravindra Jadeja’s injury ruling him out of the tournament, Pant, who has an excellent record in Australiacould do what Yuvraj Singh and Raina once did with former skipper MS Dhoni.
Under Dhoni, India triumphed in the inaugural World T20 in 2007, the 2011 ODI World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy, the last ICC tournament the team won.
“I would say having a left-handed hitter would be very important in the middle,” Raina said in an exclusive interview with PTI on Friday.
He added: “From No.1 to No.6 we don’t have any left-handers and I’m sure the opponents will have two or three left-handed bowlers. We’ve seen that in the past – 2007, 2011 and 2013 – – the role played by Gauti, Yuvi Pa and me.

“You have to bring the X factor with Hardik and who can be the X factor? I think Rishabh being a southpaw could be better,” the 35-year-old replied when asked if India should prefer Pant over Dinesh Karthik as the wicket-beater keeper.
A member of the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy winning teams, Raina further said that the left-right combination in the middle was needed to disrupt the rhythm of rival bowlers.
“When Yuvi Pa and I were playing, we were scaring the opponents. Now Rahul, Rohit will have to decide how they should go about it. I’m sure they have to think about it, but no matter who they play, we have to win.”

Karthik was the team’s designated finisher but India are unlikely to go for two wicket-keeper strikers in the same XI.
“DK got an opportunity, he was given a role. But I’m not saying if they should prefer Pant over DK. Whoever has a chance has to take a lot of responsibility and win the game,” said Raina, the first Indian to hit centuries in all three game formats.
“A left-right combination can disrupt the rhythm, especially when the pitches in Australia are big. It’s important to have a left-handed hitter in the middle. Pant did very well in Australia and won the Test series there. So we’ll see.”

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While the front four look solid and should give a perfect start, Raina thinks versatile star Pandya would be key for India.
“Remember that Pandya would be the main player for the Indian team. He will play those crucial overs in the power play and some in the middle and his role would be most important when he comes up to bat when we would need 60 to 70 runs. 30 balls. So his role would be very important for the Indian team to win the World Cup.”
India’s top four hitters were in good contact and Raina said they needed to score big to relieve Hardik.
“The opening partnership between Rohit and KL will be very, very crucial, they have all the big shots in their repertoire. Then we have Virat, Surya in the top four.
“They have to score big runs like you’re going deep, you don’t have a hitter but Hardik who can go on the hunt.”

Trusting skipper Rohit fully, he said: “He was there when India won the first World Cup in 2007, now he’s gone there as captain. I’m sure he can bring the trophy back to the House.
“I feel the team is in great shape, we ticked all the boxes. It’s about playing 40 overs well and taking one game at a time. So getting off to a good start against Pakistan and taking the momentum will be very important.
“It won’t be easy, they have to play their A game, there will be pressure, they will have to work hard. Australia, England look strong and Pakistan and New Zealand are doing well.”
Choosing veteran pacer Mohammed Shami over injured Jasprit Bumrah is a perfect decision, Raina said.

“Bumrah is our No. 1 bowler but we can only control the controllable ones and Shami is the perfect replacement for him. It’s true he hasn’t played in a long time but his seaming position and hard bridges in Australia would be helpful.”
Raina, who has been recruited as a Booking.com brand ambassador for the upcoming World Cup, is set to travel to Australia and the Netherlands and will attend the final on November 13.



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