India won the first 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 West Indies managing to clinch two titles – in 2012 and 2016.
India entered 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. Except for Shami, young Arshdeep SinghHarshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pandya are the weapons India will have in their pace armoury.
From leading India for the first time in ICC World Cup to the team’s approach in the #T20WorldCup! 👌 👌💬 💬 In conjunction… https://t.co/Bq4uMrkNX9
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1666179379000
A versatile all-rounder in his time, Watson played 59 Tests, 190 ODIs and 58 T20s 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…
You have seen Rohit lead India as a full-time captain for quite a while. Do you see his captaincy combined with the role of an opener winning India the T20 World Cup?
Definitely. India (has) definitely 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 was the captain of the Mumbai Indians and (had) success over a long period. Rohit knows how to handle and juggle the captaincy and batting as an opener as well. He knows Australian conditions very well as he has played quite a lot of cricket in Australia. The pace and bounce will certainly suit his style of batting as well.
My biggest concern is India’s bowling. They have good fast bowlers, they have world-class spinners – especially Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal. My biggest question mark is about India’s defensive bowling skills, especially at the dead end of the game (death overs). But India has an able captain in Rohit and also as a leader he is going to lead the team in a wonderful way.
India’s death bowling has indeed been problematic in the recent past. What would be your advice to Rohit Sharma?
Arshdeep is one of the best defensive bowlers Indian has. His ability to bowl yorkers at the back end of the game is amazing. We have seen it in the IPL and we have seen it for matches he has played for India as well. He has these amazing 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 bowls very well and he will handle Australian conditions, especially on bigger pitches. In India, the terrain is 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 could also be very, very good. He is an experienced bowler and India can use his experience in Australia.
Virat Kohli recently got a century against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, apart from some other notable contributions. What is your take on his current form in the T20 World Cup?
Virat is batting very nicely now. The way he played alone against Australia, a couple of those innings, the way he batted, he was at his best. Some of those shots he played were unbelievable. Virat is batting at his absolute best. He definitely needed a break just to recharge his batteries. And you can see how he made a comeback in the Indian team. The way he bats, he is 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 conundrum?
(Laugh). This is a good predicament that India has. DK batting brilliantly. He is just amazing. He just keeps coming in and just takes games away from world class bowling (teams) right away. So, if this is the role required within the Indian team, then Dinesh Karthik is definitely the man for it. If they just want someone to come in right at the end and hit boundaries right away, then DK is best for this role. While Rishabh can definitely do it too. But in my mind he is more of a middle order batsman now. Both Rishabh and Dinesh Karthik are very sharp. It just depends on what roles they have to fill. Karthik is going to play a big role for India at the T20 World Cup.
Fans believe Hardik Pandya will become India’s big ace at the T20 World Cup. Your take on it…
Hardik Pandya is a talented cricketer. When he bowls, the way he adjusts to 140s is incredible. He just has great skill and he has great ability to take wickets and also defend runs. His batting just continues to go through the roof. He is not only a finisher, he is also a power hitter. He has all the skills. We saw him in the last IPL. He can win the T20 World Cup on his own. He is truly a game winner.
Mission #T20WorldCup 🏆All-rounder @hardikpandya7 discusses it all as #TeamIndia gears up for the marquee event👍 👍… https://t.co/0goxaiTwBL
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1666006464000
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 privileged to now have an opportunity to play cricket even after retiring from professional cricket. In a way, to be able to have this chance, to be able to get back out on the field and get back into the skills, I feel very privileged and very fortunate to have this chance. It’s just something that I personally never thought would happen again. When I retired in 2020, I never thought I would use my cricket skills again. Apart from a coaching perspective – helping out – but not really with my own cricketing skills. It was a lot of fun to be able to get back into cricket and get back into the games, and walk out in the middle, it was a lot of fun. It was a full house in Jodhpur. It’s just something I never thought would happen again in my life.