India looking solid but need to carry on this form: Sourav Ganguly ahead of Cricket World Cup 2023
Just ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2023, Rohit Sharma's Team India slipped into a dream form winning the Asia Cup and beating Australia at home. Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly feels the Men in Blue look "by far the best" among the World Cup competitors but stresses on the importance of carrying on the momentum in the entire tournament. On the sidelines of an event by Xiaomi in Kolkata, IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh catches up with Ganguly, a former BCCI president, on India's prospects in the World Cup...
Q. Ravichandran Ashwin has replaced yet-to-be fit Axar Patel in India's World Cup squad. How do you see this change keeping in mind Ashwin hasn't played enough ODIs for a long time?
A. He is a great bowler. My only surprise is why he plays only in World Cups! He is probably as good as Harbhajan Singh. I haven't played with Erapalli Prasanna but have watched Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) closely. They are two champion off-spinners the country has produced. He will do a great job. We saw it against Australia. He has got a variety in bowling and the way he bowls is commendable. I think India are fortunate to have one of the best bowlers in the world.
Q. The confusion over the number four slot seems to be over now.
A. I said it a couple of months ago. I wondered what the confusion was about. Anybody can bat at number four. They found it in the form of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer. India are looking a very solid team but having said that, it does not mean anything. They were solid both in the Asia Cup and in the ODI series against Australia.
So they will have to keep that momentum in the next 45 days to be the world champions. They look by far the best team in the tournament but they will have to live up to it. By that, I mean performances, keeping the momentum and form are very important.
Q. How would you have approached the three slots starting from number four if you were the captain?
A. Depends. It depends on what number they want him to bat. Kohli (Virat Kohli) bats at three, I think I will play Shreyas to start with as he can bat at four, Rahul at five, Hardik Pandya at six and Jadeja (Ravindra Jadeja) at seven. If the form is not good, Rahul goes out to bat at four, Pandya at five and Surya (Suryakumar Yadav) can bat at six.
India have enormous options. There is Ishan Kishan, who can hit the ball miles, sitting out but Rahul Dravid (India's head coach) and Rohit Sharma (India captain) will be thinking of the way forward. If you ask me, I will probably send Shreyas Iyer to bat at four.
Q. Name three Indian players you would be watching out in the World Cup.
A. All of them. I can't leave anybody out. Gill (Shubman Gill), Rohit (Rohit Sharma) who batted brilliantly against Australia, Virat, Rahul who has come back after such a long time and he has looked very clean. I don't know whether Surya will get a game or not. I want to see Surya between the 40th and 50th overs and create that situation as he does in T20 cricket.
But for me, the biggest plus is the bowling. I mean, Bumrah (Jasprit Bumrah), Shami (Mohammed Shami), Siraj (Mohammed Siraj), it's a fantastic bowling attack with Pandya as the fourth bowler. For dry pitches, which will probably happen as the tournament progresses, we have got three spinners, Jadeja (Ravindra Jadeja), Kuldeep (Kuldeep Yadav) and Ashwin (Ravichandran Ashwin). It's a great balance and as I said, the only thing they need to do is to keep the form going. Form is very important in sport.
Q. Do you miss any player, who could have played the World Cup, in the Indian squad?
A. India have so many players who can play World Cups (smiles). This country has enormous talent. But I think they have picked the best 15.
(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)