NEW DELHI: Former Australian cricketer Shane Watson, while tagging Hardik Pandia as a “match winner” claimed that India’s all-round star, thanks to her rich streak of form, can take India to second place T20 World Cup title victory.
India won the first edition of the T20 World Cup in 2007, under the captain of MS Dhoni. The eighth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup is taking place in Australia and the Indian team, led by Rohit Sharma, will start their campaign on October 23 against historical rivals Pakistan in the Super 12 phase.
In the 7 completed editions of the tournament so far there have been as many as 6 different champions, with only the West Indies having managed to clinch two titles – in 2012 and 2016.
India entered the tournament without the services of two champions: pacer Jasprit Bumrah and handyman Ravindra Jadeja. In the absence of Bumrah, expert Mohammed Shami will lead the Indian attack on bowling. Aside from Shami, young man Arshdeep SinghHarshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pandya are the weapons India will have in their arsenal.

A bold all-rounder in his day, Watson played 59 tests, 190 ODI and 58 T20I for Australia between 2002 and 2016. Watto, who retired from all forms of cricket in November 2020, spoke to TimesofIndia. com in an interview before the 2022 T20 World Cup began and talked about the leadership of Rohit Sharma, Pandya the handyman, the Rishabh Pant vs Dinesh Karthik debate and much more …
excerpts …
You’ve seen Rohit lead India for quite a while as a full-time captain. Do you see his captain combined with the role of the first hitter to win India’s T20 World Cup?
Decidedly. India (has) certainly the world-class capabilities for its team to be able to win the T20 World Cup. Rohit is an experienced captain. He is one of the best in the world. He has captained the Indians of Mumbai and (has) been successful over a long period of time. Rohit knows how to manage and juggle captain and serve as well as opening. He knows Australian conditions very well as he has played a lot of cricket in Australia. Rhythm and rebound will surely suit his batting style as well.

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(photo ANI)
My biggest concern is Indian bowling. They have good fast throwers, they have world-class spinners – Axar Patel in particular and Yuzvendra Chahal. My biggest question mark is about the defensive abilities of India’s bowling, especially in the dead end of the game (death over). But India has a skilled captain in Rohit and also as a leader he will lead the team in a fantastic way.
India’s death bowling has been really problematic in the recent past. What would be your advice to Rohit Sharma?
Arshdeep is one of the best defensive bowlers Indians have. His ability to execute Yorkers in the backend of the game is amazing. We saw him in the IPL and we also saw him for the games he played for India. He has these great defensive skills and this is something India definitely needs in the T20 World Cup. Arshdeep will be great with his pace. He is playing very well and will handle the Australian conditions, especially on larger grounds. In India, the gardens are somewhat smaller. Hence, it is a little more difficult to be able to defend while in Australia (there is) larger land. Bhuvneshwar’s execution to death can also be very, very good. He is an experienced player and India can take advantage of his experience in Australia.

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Virat Kohli got a century against Afghanistan in the Asian Cup recently, plus a couple of other notable contributions. What is your opinion on his current form for the T20 World Cup?

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(AFP photo)
Virat is beating very well right now. The way he played Australia on his own, a couple of those innings, the way he beat, he gave his best. Some of those shots he played were incredible. Virat is beating the best of all. He definitely needed a break just to recharge his batteries. And you can see the way he made it back to the Indian team. The way he beats will play a key role for India in the T20 World Cup.
Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik, or both? How can India solve this conundrum?

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(Laughs). It is a good situation that India has. DK is beating brilliantly. It is simply unbelievable. He just keeps going in and taking the games away from world-class bowling (teams) right away. So if this is the role you need within the Indian team, Dinesh Karthik is definitely the man for it. If they just want someone to get to the end and hit the limits immediately, then DK is the best for this role. Whereas Rishabh can certainly do this too. But in my mind, he’s more of a mid-range hitter right now. Both Rishabh and Dinesh Karthik are very sharp. It just depends on the roles they have to fill. Karthik will play an important role for India at the T20 World Cup.
Fans believe Hardik Pandya will prove to be India’s great ace at the T20 World Cup. Your opinion on this …
Hardik Pandya is a talented cricketer. When he’s bowling, the way he’s accelerated to 140 seconds is amazing. He just has great skill and has a great ability to take wickets and also to defend the slopes. His joke continues to skyrocket. He is not only a finisher, he is also a powerful hitter. He has all the skills. We saw it in the last IPL. He can win the T20 World Cup on his own. He is truly a match-winner.

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Legends League Cricket, which you are also a part of, has now been turned into a franchise tournament like the IPL. Your opinion on this initiative …
We all feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play cricket now, even after we retired from professional cricket. In a way, in order to have this chance, to be able to get back on the pitch and get back to skills, I feel very lucky and very privileged to have this chance. It’s just something I personally never thought would happen again. When I retired in 2020, I never thought I’d use my cricket skills again. Aside from a coaching perspective – helping out – but not really with my cricket skills. It was a lot of fun to be able to go back to cricket and go back to the games, and get out in the middle, it was a lot of fun. It was sold out in Jodhpur. It’s just something I never thought would happen again in my life.



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