Whether Pant plays or not, Karthik should be in India playing XI: Eranga

NEW DELHI: No one expected much from them, no one tagged them as favourites, and they were not a star-studded side, but Sri Lanka stunned everyone by going on to conquer the Asia Cup, beating Pakistan in the summit clash to complete a fairytale run.
The road to the main draw of the ongoing T20 World Cup though is a slightly more arduous one for the Lankans. They couldn’t qualify directly for the Super 12 stage and are having to play the First Round, which is essentially a qualifier round to determine which four teams will join the top 8 who have directly qualified for the main draw.
The Emerald Islanders though were in for a rude shock in their opening Round 1 match, where minnows Namibia stunned the Dasun Shanaka-led team by 55-runs. The Lankans were bowled out for just 108, chasing a not very challenging 164.
The Lankans play UAE on Tuesday and then the Netherlands on Thursday in their next two Round 1 clashes as they eye a Super 12 berth.

Can they still make a comeback and put their campaign back on track?
Interestingly, Sri Lanka hold the record for the most number of final appearances at the T20 World Cup, with three (2009, 2012 & 2014). They won the title in 2014, beating India in the final in Dhaka.
Shaminda Eranga, a brisk fast-medium bowler, who played 19 Tests, 19 ODIs, and 3 T20Is for Sri Lanka between 2011 and 2016 before his career ended due to a nerve-related back injury, spoke exclusively with TimesofIndia.com, before the 2022 edition of the T20 World Cup officially began, and spoke about Sri Lanka’s World Cup title chances this time, India chasing their first T20 World Cup title since 2007, who he thinks India’s key players in the mega tournament this time will be and much more.
Eranga, who now plays club cricket in Australia, made headlines when he took a wicket off the first ball he bowled on Test debut vs Australia at Colombo in 2011. With this he became, at that time, the 15th bowler in the history of Test cricket to take a wicket with his maiden ball.
He dismissed Shane Watson for 8 runs for that first wicket and then went on to take a total of 5 wickets in that match which ended in a draw. Apart from Watson, the 36-year-old dismissed Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, and Trent Copeland.

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Shaminda Eranga (AFP Photo)
We didn’t see much of you after 2016…
After 2016, I suffered an injury. My lower back had three kinds of injuries. So, I couldn’t recover from that. And it took almost two years to recover. That’s the reason I couldn’t take my career forward and couldn’t play. I was disappointed and frustrated. I tried a lot of medicines, doctors, and physios. But everything was in vain. I really wanted to come back to the international scene. That injury put a stop to my international career. Injuries are part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life, especially for fast bowlers. I live in South Australia now. I play club cricket there now. I am happy.
Were you expecting Sri Lanka to win the Asia Cup this time?
Sri Lanka planned really well. Planning helped them. They played as a team; they were united and took every single step together. They silently moved towards the goal (title) and achieved it. Did anyone tag them as favourites? I don’t think so. Playing as a team, took them to the coveted title. They played together, they won together and they lost together. When they lost the match, they were still united. Honestly, I believed in them. I knew they could turn things around.

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(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Sri Lanka have played the most number of finals at the T20 World Cup. Do you think they have a chance to win the title this time?
T20 is a funny game. The game changes in two overs. It changes if you lose two quick wickets. Don’t underestimate Sri Lanka at the T20 World Cup. Asian conditions were different. T20 World Cup will be played in Australia so Sri Lanka will be playing in different conditions altogether. It poses a big challenge for them. But again, don’t underestimate them. They can do wonders on their day. We can trust Sri Lanka. They won the Asia Cup without any star players. Let’s not forget this. You can’t judge or tag anyone as favourites on the basis of rankings, especially in T20 cricket. This is the T20 World Cup, be ready for surprises. A small team can get under the skin of the No. 1 team. It is just a matter of a couple of hits and a couple of wickets.
The last time India won a T20 World Cup was way back in 2007 under MS Dhoni‘s leadership. Do you think Rohit Sharma will be able to lead India to victory again?
Yes, Rohit can. He is a good leader. Having star players in the teams doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes. In T20 cricket, one bad shot will cost the team a wicket. Because every single batsman will come and try to hit all over the park. Bowlers are there to create pressure and a batsman, in most cases, loses his wicket under pressure. Be it, Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, India won’t expect mistakes from them. With minimum mistakes, you will be on top. That’s the formula of T20 cricket. You just can’t make mistakes in the shortest format of the game.

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Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma (AFP Photo)
If you had to pick two Indian players who could be game changers in leading India to a podium finish, who would they be?
The first and top on the list is Hardik Pandya. He is a super confident player. When he is out in the middle, he is a nightmare for the opposition. He can change the course of the game at any time. Such a confident player he is. Another player who can take India to a title win is Dinesh Karthik. He is an incredible player. He is experienced and in excellent form. These two will do wonders for the Indian team.
Virat Kohli has regained his form…
Virat in form means he will make your (bowlers’) life hell with his bat. He is a fearless character. He is a mind reader. That’s why he plays top bowlers fearlessly and brilliantly. He is going to score big. He is so knowledgeable and works hard all the time. He makes a bowler sweat during the nets and that’s how he prepares himself. He is just superb. Virat in the Indian team means India has their batting sorted.

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Virat Kohli (AFP Photo)
An ICC trophy as a captain will always be missing from Virat Kohli’s cabinet …
That’s where MS Dhoni’s example comes in. You need to take on (individual) and leadership (responsibilities) together. That’s how you accomplish your and your team’s goals together. You just can’t focus on yourself and go ahead. I played against him (Dhoni). He always took his captaincy and the team together. That’s the sign of a brilliant leader. You can be a captain, but a captain can’t (necessarily) be a leader. There is a huge difference. Dhoni always put the team first. Every captain gets angry.
Dhoni used to (also) get angry. Virat also got angry on many occasions and Rohit did too. That’s because a captain wants results. Dhoni used to get angry but he ensured the team’s confidence didn’t get damaged. He supported his players, injected confidence, gave them a lot of chances, and took everyone together. This helped his players perform, remain confident and win matches. That’s why Dhoni-led (India) teams won three ICC titles. He walked with players together and he knew how to get the best out of them.
Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant vs Pakistan?
I will go for DK. He is talented and experienced. You need a player who can take the pressure on. And we have seen DK doing it. Whether India go for Pant or not, DK should be in the eleven. He will play the role of a game-changer.

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Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik (Twitter Photo)
Death bowling could be a major concern for Team India once the Super 12 stage begins. Your thoughts…
India have good bowlers. They have Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the young Arshdeep Singh. India just needs to handle pressure and create pressure too. Arshdeep and Bhuvneshwar will do well in Australia. Shami and Bhuvneshwar will be assets in the death overs in Australian conditions. Shami can single-handedly turn the tide for India.

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