‘Bumrah’s role in the WC will be very crucial along with the performance of spinners in the middle overs. Apart from Virat, others also need to chip in if Indian team wants to win the cup’.
Former Australian fast bowler Andy Bichel, a part of 2003 World Cup winning team, picks India as favourites to win the ICC cricket World Cup. He believes that the Indian team has got everything at its disposal to win the title and apart from Virat Kohli, Bumrah’s performance would determine how the team performs in the quadrennial event. In an interview with The Sunday Guardian, Bichel talked about the middle order conundrum in the Indian team and Smith’s comeback to the Australian squad.
Q. How has life been after your retirement from cricket?
A. I think I am lucky. I have been involved in the game ever since I stopped playing. I went into coaching role for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). I would soon be involved with Queensland as an assistant coach. This is a great opportunity, a slow time in the year in Australia because everyone is in England for the World Cup. This is a good opportunity to be involved with the World Cup and I am looking forward to it.
Q. Let’s talk about the Indian cricket team. Is there any loophole you see in the current Indian squad?
A. I think they have picked the right squad. It’s more about whether they are going to get the right playing eleven in those particular conditions. I hope they make the right selection.
Q. But the middle-order muddle has been a headache for the team with so many players tried and tested in that particular position. Indian coach Ravi Shastri made a statement that players should be flexible enough to bat at any position for the team. Who, according to you, should be playing in that position for India?
A. You need to have some experience when you are batting at the top four positions. The fact that KL Rahul could play a serious role at the top of the order is important. I am not sure how is that going to look. The challenge is to get the balance right for the team whether they want to go with Dhoni or Shankar up the order. If they want to go with five bowlers, it’s important to get the selection right.
Q. Despite being given an extended run at the number four position, Ambati Rayudu was dropped at the very last moment. He also boasts a healthy batting average of 47. How hard is it for the players in such situation, and do you think he should have been considered for the World Cup squad?
A. An all-rounder can play a big role in this tournament. India have taken some pretty good all-rounders. They have gone with the batting and bowling options. They have got six to seven bowling options and probably that’s why Rayudu has missed out. He doesn’t ball, he is a good fielder. I think they have gone with the all-rounder options. Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav have done pretty good stuff in recent times. Maybe they are missing that one batsman if they are going to play five bowlers.
Q. Apart from Virat Kohli, who do you think could be the trump card for India?
A. It has to be Jasprit Bumrah but someone in the top order has to do the job. You need someone to take the game away from the opposition. The top four has to do that. They will have to give match-winning performances if they are to win the World Cup. And then you need bowlers. Spinners particularly are going to play a crucial role as Brad Hogg did in 2003 World Cup. It should not be left to only one person. Virat Kohli can’t score hundred after hundred. India will also need others to chip in and do the job for the team.
Q. Would you have picked Rishabh Pant as he can add some serious fire power in the team’s batting line-up?
A. Pant has been known as a finisher. Dinesh Karthik has also been a good finisher for what he has done. The fact that he is a left-handed batsman, brings another dimension lower down the order but then you also have Jadeja to do that. At the end of the day, you have included two world class spinners and you have picked your best keeper to replace MS Dhoni. You can’t just have someone missing stumping in the middle of the game. Karthik may play one game to give MS some break. But I definitely think that Pant would be there for the next World Cup.
Q. You have played against the Indian team back in 2003. What change do you see now, especially in the bowlers, in terms of fitness? And why this sudden meteoric rise in bowling and fitness levels of the team?
A. It’s the Indian Premier League (IPL). It has changed so many things in this country. I believe that people don’t see the fact that Glenn McGrath played in the IPL along with a long list of other fast bowlers. When they come, they come with a package. The way they go about their fitness. They stretch, they do hot spa… massage, and all these young kids have witnessed that. This is how you prepare for the games. This is why the Indian guys have got fitter, faster and stronger. The IPL has exposed them so much to all these superstars.
Q. Let’s talk about the Australian team’s prospects in the World Cup. Now that Steve Smith has joined the squad, how do you see Aaron Finch’s captaincy in this scenario?
A. Smith now knows the boundaries after what he has been through. There is no doubt that he is probably the best person to captain the team. I am sure that Aaron Finch would be going throughout this tournament like Virat Kohli would be doing with MS Dhoni…just trying a few ideas in the middle when Zampa is bowling and potentially when Maxwell is coming into the team or with Mitchell Starc to try and get a wicket.
Q. How do you feel about Josh Hazlewood World Cup snub?
A. Hazlewood is a world class bowler and he should be in the squad. You can’t leave a player like him out of the team especially when he has got the experience of World Cup finals in 2015.
Q. Do you think England’s success has largely been borne out of its batting prowess? In a scenario when pitches in the tournament are likely to be flat, can we expect that bowling will play a major role in the World Cup?
A. England team has come a long way since the 2015 World Cup. They were pretty good in T-20 cricket but were embarrassing in 50-overs game. They have worked really hard in getting a structure that has an explosive power at the top. They have good finishers in Jos Butler and Ben Stokes, lower down the order. They have just added a world class bowler to their line-up in Jofra Archer. They also have Rashid who can spin the ball. I think they have worked pretty hard and would be difficult to beat especially at home given the fact that Australia won its last World Cup at home and India had done the same.
Q. Talking about your playing days, was there any particular batsman you feared bowling to?
A. As a player, you are always battling against Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. Initially, it was daunting but I built some strategies and dismissed both of them quite regularly. I had to overcome that as an athlete to go out there and play against the best in the world. They were arguably the best batters in the world and I was lucky enough to have a couple of good ones in my team – Gilchrist, Hayden and Ponting. We used to practice a lot together, therefore if I could get them out, I could get Brian and Sachin too.
Q. Who will win the World Cup?
A. India can win because of their depth in bowling. Bumrah’s performance will be very crucial. Without him, they will not be able to win.
Andy Bichel has been roped in as an expert panelist for Power Sportz, a live digital sports channel. It will run non-stop programming over 45 days starting 30th May 2019.