T20 World Cup 2024 | If Rohit or Kohli plays defining knocks on big days, group league scores won't matter: Manjrekar

Manjrekar didn't envisage Rishabh Pant getting promoted to No. 3 but it has turned out to be a master-stroke as the flamboyant left-hander was easily India's best batter on view during the group league stage

Published - June 16, 2024 04:05 pm IST - New Delhi

India’s Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli  during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, June 09, 2024.

India’s Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, June 09, 2024. | Photo Credit: DEEPAK KR

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are in this Indian set-up because of their ability to play defining knocks when it matters the most and Sanjay Manjrekar wouldn't mind a few underwhelming group league scores from the two megastars if they can make a difference in the semi-final or final of the ongoing T20 World Cup.

While Kohli has failed to reach double digits in all three completed games, skipper Rohit was in good nick during his fifty against Ireland but didn't score many against Pakistan and USA in the subsequent matches.

"Ideally, if you have gone for people like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, then you have gone for experience. You want to take your experienced players in World Cup to deliver when it really matters," Manjrekar told PTI in an exclusive interview.

The former India player added, "So, I don't mind if certain players are out of form. Coming into the knockouts, if they play a defining innings in a semi-final or the final to win the title, that's the kind of expectation you must have from your senior players.

"If a youngster comes to the fore, that's a bonus like it happened in 1992 with Pakistan, with Inzamam ul Haq. It's the seniors who have to make the major contribution and that is why I guess selectors go for experience in T20 World Cup or World Cups generally."

Manjrekar, who has played 37 Tests and 74 ODIs, is one of the most respected cricket analysts and when asked about the legendary duo's future in T20Is post World Cup, he felt that it could be answered by the players themselves or the national chairman of selectors.

"I think it's a question best asked to chairman of selectors what their plans are and the two individuals can tell what their plans are and how the selection committee is going to be thinking and I think there's fair bit left in the tournament before they start thinking on those lines," the Mumbaikar said.

Dube in Windies? Let's wait and watch

Shivam Dube, the toast of Chennai Super Kings' IPL campaign, hasn't exactly looked at ease on the tough New York strip and seems to be struggling when the ball isn't coming onto the bat.

Since he is a designated power-hitter, the jury is still out on his utility on the Caribbean tracks, where hitting through the line might not be the best option.

"We will have to wait and see. You are right because the hitting that you saw from Shivam Dube was on some of the flattest pitches in the world and also a long league (IPL) where a lot doesn't hinge on one game. So the pressures of World Cup are different.

"So, we need to wait and see if Shivam Dube can replicate what he did in the IPL against the spinners. You are right as it isn't going to be as easy to hit the spinners as it was on Indian pitches, and so we need to see if Dube can upgrade his power-hitting skills against spinners on these tracks," Manjrekar assessed.

Rishabh at No. 3 is a brilliant move

Manjrekar didn't envisage Rishabh Pant getting promoted to No. 3 but it has turned out to be a master-stroke as the flamboyant left-hander was easily India's best batter on view during the group league stage.

"They (team management) want more and more impact players, at every position down the order and Rishabh Pant, I didn't expect him to be batting at No. 3, and what a brilliant move it has turned out to be, starting from that warm-up game against Bangladesh, when Samson and Rohit Sharma took some time to get used to the surface," he opined.

"Pant has showed his class. He has been India's best batter in this tournament so far, and on a difficult pitch, and that is Rishabh Pant's class. That they gave him the No. 3 slot also ensured that India don't have six right-handers like they had in that 50-over World Cup and the only left-hander India had was Jadeja at No. 7."

If pitches offer turn in WI, India might opt for finger spinners

Kuldeep Yadav, India's best spinner in last 18 months, has been on the bench as they opted for four all-rounders (two seam bowling and two spin bowling) during the USA leg of the tour.

The pitches in West Indies are supposed to be conducive for spinners but if it's a rank turner, India might just go with their two finger spinners rather than any of the two wrist spinners, reckoned Manjrekar.

"The thing about pitches in the West Indies is that if India comes across a real turning pitch, then they might just be happy having finger spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel) because if you see in India, when we have rank turners, you always see that you have Ashwin and Jadeja, so that might suffice.

"Kuldeep Yadav's great strength is that if there isn't much in the pitch, he will extract more from the pitch than any other spinner, plus the kind of artistry that he has, plus all those kind of bowlers' value hasn't been seen because there is so much in the pitches, all you needed are bowlers who can bowl accurately."

The interview was facilitated by Disney+ Hotstar, which also streams an exclusive first-of-its-kind LIVE cricket show, 'Caught & Bold' featuring Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu, Sanjay Manjrekar and a host of other former cricketers from around the world.

The ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024 is streaming LIVE and FREE on mobile on Disney+ Hotstar.

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