NEW DELHI: The impact of Virat Kohli‘s exceptional innings against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup 2022 remains alive in the memory of every Pakistani cricketer, particularly as they approach the upcoming ICC ODI World Cup.
Virat showcased his prowess by hitting two extraordinary sixes off Pakistan’s Haris Rauf, orchestrating a memorable victory for India in the marquee tournament.
But then Virat has, like other Indian stalwarts before him, always upped the ante against the men in green. His highest ODI score of 183 in fact was scored against Pakistan in the Asia Cup in 2012.
Former Pakistan pacer Mohammad Amir, alongside another former pacer Wahab Riaz, were glued to the television screen when Virat was masterfully pummelling the Pakistan bowling line-up last year.
Amir, who played 36 Tests, 61 ODIs and 50 T20Is for Pakistan between 2009 and 2020, feels Virat will be India’s go-to-man in the the upcoming edition of the ICC ODI World Cup and will play a big role in India’s quest for to end their long-wait for an ICC title.
The last time India won an ICC trophy was 10 years ago – the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. They last won the ODI World Cup in 2011. Both titles were won under MS Dhoni’s captaincy.
After 12 years, India will be hosting the World Cup once again (this time as sole hosts) and needless to say the fans are expecting an encore of the team’s 2011 exploits when Dhoni’s match-winning six sent billions into a frenzy as the Men in Blue lifted the coveted cup in front of a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium.
India will kick off their World Cup campaign on October 8 in Chennai with a clash against Australia.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with former Pakistan pacer Amir for an exclusive interview to talk about India’s World Cup chances, Virat’s exploits vs Pakistan, Jasprit Bumrah’s role, Mohammed Siraj’s form, his own career and much more…
Do you think you could you have played for Pakistan for a few more years?
As a cricketer, you have to retire someday. But you must enjoy it till the time you are playing cricket and representing your country. International cricket is not a joke. Playing at the highest level puts you under immense pressure. Sometimes you finish on a high and on some occasions, you have a bad day at the office. Whatever cricket I have played, I enjoyed it a lot. Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi are my childhood heroes. I used to have fights with my family over Afridi. I used to pray that he should bat longer and longer and score as many runs as possible. My heartbeat would increase when he would get out. Playing with them and against them was a privilege for me. I really enjoyed my time on the field.
Your best career memory vs India…
The Champions Trophy final will always remain close to my heart. That was such a wonderful game and a one-sided one. Pakistan won that comfortably. Dismissing Virat was a big moment for me. When he (Virat) was dropped (by Azhar Ali), I was disappointed but off the very next ball I wanted to get rid of him and I did that. That was a huge moment for me. As a cricketer, I am a huge fan of Virat Kohli’s. I always say Virat is the best player of this era. Dismissing him was the best moment for me (vs India).
There has understandably been a lot of debate for years now about whether India and Pakistan should resume their bilateral rivalry. Your take on that…
Yes, why not? There should be India vs Pakistan bilateral series. Pakistan should visit India and India should come to Pakistan to play a bilateral series. If you ask these two teams – Pakistan and India – they will say let the government decide, but the fans want an India vs Pakistan bilateral series. More than the players, fans want this. When India play Pakistan in the World Cup, it gets huge viewership, people take off from their offices and are glued to their television screens. It is huge. To increase more and more interest among fans, there should be a bilateral series between these two countries.
R Ashwin finds a place in World Cup Team, injured Axar Patel replaced
Virat Kohli is in red-hot form. Do you still recall his majestic innings of the T20 World Cup vs Pakistan? How big a role will he play for India in the World Cup this time, according to you?
That was a massive innings by Virat. He played a wonderful knock. That was just unbelievable. I was watching that match on the television screen. Wahab Riaz was sitting beside me. When 48 runs were needed off 3 overs, I told Riaz ‘India match haara nahi hai’ (India haven’t lost the game yet). I told him ‘Till the time Virat is there, India haven’t lost the match’. I guaranteed him that. No batter in the world could play that miraculous knock, only Virat could. Virat is the only player who could take the game from that particular situation and turn it around, and he did. Riaz gave me a high five after that match. The word pressure is not there in Virat’s cricketing dictionary. If you ask Virat, he will surely say that that knock vs Pakistan was the best innings of his life. Virat will be a dangerman for every team in the World Cup. He is in top and red-hot form. His confidence is at another level at the moment.
Which Indian pacer is the current best and why? Also is India’s pace attack now the best in the world?
Mohammed Siraj. I am really impressed with him. No one took him seriously or rated him highly when he stepped into white-ball cricket. The way he has progressed and performed in white ball cricket is just amazing and outstanding. He is improving by leaps and bounds. He is a captain’s man. He is phenomenal with both the red and white ball. I would give credit to RCB. They have played a big role in his development. Virat Kohli has played a big role in his career. In fact, Siraj has said this many times that Virat supports him a lot. The more you play, the better you become. Siraj didn’t take any rest and played a lot of games. That’s a good sign. India did a very good thing that they didn’t write off Siraj. India supported him in every situation. Siraj gained a lot of confidence from that support. India continued to play him in every format. In Tests, he is at par with Shami and taking India’s pace attack to another level. He is doing well for India in all formats. India were totally dependent and stuck on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the last 3-4 years. But now their boys and new bowlers have started chipping in, which is a brilliant sign for the team.
Jasprit Bumrah is back in the fray. Your take on his workload management and the overall concept…
I support workload management a lot. Because it happened to me as well. When I took retirement from Tests after the 2019 World Cup, workload was the main reason. When I returned to cricket in 2016, I played consistent cricket for 4 years. My body had a lot of niggles. My performances went down, I couldn’t generate good pace, I started picking up injuries and my career was affected a lot. Workload management, especially for the fast bowlers, is very very important. Nowadays, cricket is being played for 10 out of 12 months every year.
How big a role, according to you, will Bumrah play for India in their World Cup campaign at home this time?
Bumrah will play a huge role. He is the centre point of their attack. Bumrah on his day and at home, is lethal. The way he bowls with the new and old ball is just amazing. It was a setback for India to not have him for more than a year. Now, he is back, India’s pack attack is world-class. He will play a big role for Rohit and India in the World Cup.
Your take on young speed gun Umran Malik who bowls 150 kmph plus. Do you think he can be an all-format player?
It won’t be a good idea to play him in all three formats. You can take the example of Haris Rauf. When you get someone with raw pace, you need to give him time and let him settle down. Haris Rauf was playing white ball cricket and was playing really well. Suddenly, he was included in Tests, and he got a niggle during a Test match. Your body needs to be prepared for a particular format. Umran also needs to be given time to settle down. He is a young and talented pacer. He will go a long way. Let him play limited-overs cricket for some years, when you think he has settled down, include him in four-day cricket and then Tests. It is a slow process but works in the long run.
According to you, can Rohit do what Dhoni did in 2011?
India are obviously hot favourites as they are playing in India. Whichever team plays against India, they need to give their 110 per cent. India are a dangerous side in their own conditions. Winning in India is not an easy job. When you go to Australia, every team struggles. Likewise, every team struggles when they visit India. Rohit Sharma‘s India will be a hot favourite to win the World Cup.