Hardik can win India the T20 World Cup on his own: Watson

NEW DELHI: Former Australian cricketer Shane Watson, while tagging Hardik Pandya as a ‘match winner’ has said that India’s star all-rounder, thanks to his rich vein of form, can take India to their second T20 World Cup title win.
India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. The 8th edition of the ICC T20 World Cup is currently being played in Australia and the Indian team, led by Rohit Sharma, will kick off their campaign on October 23 against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Super 12 stage.
In the 7 completed editions of the tournament so far there have been as many as 6 different champions, with only the West Indies managing to clinch two titles – in 2012 and 2016.
India have gone into the tournament without the services of two star players – pacer Jasprit Bumrah and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. In Bumrah’s absence, the experienced Mohammed Shami will spearhead the Indian bowling attack. Apart from Shami, young Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Pandya are the weapons India will have in their pace armoury.

A swashbuckling all-rounder in his time, Watson played 59 Tests, 190 ODIs, and 58 T20Is 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 Rohit Sharma’s leadership, Pandya the all-rounder, the Rishabh Pant vs Dinesh Karthik debate and much more…
Excerpts…
You have seen Rohit lead India for a fair bit as a full-time captain. Do you see his captaincy combined with the role of an opening batter winning India the T20 World Cup?
Definitely. India (have) certainly got the world-class skills for their 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 Mumbai Indians and (has had) success over a long period of time. Rohit knows how to handle and juggle the captaincy and batting as an opener as well. He knows Australian conditions very well as he’s played quite a lot of cricket in Australia. The pace and bounce certainly will suit his style of batting as well.

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My biggest concern is India’s bowling. They have got good fast bowlers, they have got world-class spinners – Axar Patel in particular and Yuzvendra Chahal. My biggest question mark is on India’s defensive bowling skills, especially at the dead end of the game (death overs). But India have got a skilled captain in Rohit and also as a leader, he’s going to be directing the team in a great way.
India’s death bowling has indeed been problematic in the recent past. What would your advice to Rohit Sharma be?
Arshdeep is one of the best defensive bowlers Indian have got. His ability to execute yorkers at the back end of the game is amazing. We’ve seen that in the IPL and we’ve seen that for games he’s played for India as well. He’s got these great defensive skills and that is one thing that India definitely needs in the T20 World Cup. Arshdeep is going to be great with his pace. He’s bowling really well and he’s going to be handling Australian conditions, especially on bigger grounds. In India, the grounds are a bit smaller. So, it’s a bit more challenging to be able to defend whereas in Australia (there are) bigger grounds. Bhuvneshwar’s execution at the death can be very, very good as well. He is an experienced bowler and India can use his experience in Australia.

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Virat Kohli got a century against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup recently, besides a couple of other notable contributions. What’s your take on his current form going into the T20 World Cup?

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Virat is batting very nicely right now. The way he played against Australia alone, a couple of those innings, the way he batted, he was at his best. Some of those shots that he played were amazing. Virat is batting at his absolute best. He definitely needed a break just to be able to re-energize his batteries. And you can see the way he has made a comeback into the Indian team. The way he’s batting, he’s going to play a key role for India in the T20 World Cup.
Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik, or both? How can India solve that riddle?

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(Laughs). It’s a good predicament that India have got. DK is batting brilliantly. He is just incredible. He just continues to come in and just take games away from world-class bowling (teams) straightaway. So, if that’s the role needed within the Indian team then Dinesh Karthik is certainly the man for that. If they just want someone to come in right at the end and hit boundaries straightaway, then DK is the best for this role. Whereas, Rishabh can certainly do that too. But in my mind, he is more of a middle-order batsman right now. Both Rishabh and Dinesh Karthik are very sharp. It just depends on what roles they need to fill in. Karthik is going to play a big role for India at the T20 World Cup.
Fans believe Hardik Pandya will turn out to be India’s big ace at the T20 World Cup. Your take on that…
Hardik Pandya is a talented cricketer. When he’s bowling, the way he is paced up at 140s is amazing. He’s just got great skill and he’s got great ability to take wickets and also defend runs. His batting just continues to go through the roof. He’s not just a finisher, he’s a power hitter too. He’s got all the skills. We’ve seen him in the last IPL. He can win the T20 World Cup on his own. He is truly a match-winner.

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The Legends League Cricket, which you are also a part of, has now been transformed into a franchise-based tournament like the IPL. Your take on this initiative…
We all feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to play cricket now, even after we retired from professional cricket. In a way, to be able to have this chance, to be able to get back out into the field and get back into the skills, I feel very fortunate and very privileged to have this chance. It’s just something that I personally never thought that was going to happen again. When I retired in 2020, I never thought I was going to be using my cricket skills again. Apart from a coaching perspective – helping out – but not actually with my own cricket skills. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to sort of getting back into cricket and get back into the games, and walk out in the middle, it’s been a lot of fun. It was a full house in Jodhpur. It’s just something that I never thought was going to happen in my life again.

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