In the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL), Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Hardik Pandya gave the world a glimpse of their monstrous six-hitting prowess which enthralled the capacity audience present in the stands. With World Cup 2019 approaching fast, senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has given Indian team management some important advice for the mega event. He feels both Dhoni and Pandya should be given license to attack from the word go during the quadrennial extravaganza. A trend shows that Dhoni has been taking the game deep before going for a final assault but his one-time national and current CSK teammate wants him to go back to his big-hitting ways.
“I feel he is at his best when he hits from the onset. Some of his best innings have come when he started the onslaught straightaway. I feel the team management should give him and Hardik Pandya the licence to bat the way they want to. No restrictions, only go for the jugular at No 5,” Harbhajan told PTI during an interview.
For Harbhajan, top-order batsmen Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul can build the innings, so Dhoni has the freedom to attack. But what about his problems in the middle overs when spinners like Mitchell Santner or Nathan Lyon will be operational?
“That exactly is my point. The Dhoni of the old would hit a six off the second ball off any spinner and those are big sixes. He should and can still do it as I have seen at the CSK nets. Uske chhakkon mein bahot jaan hai (He still hits mighty sixes),” said the member of the victorious 2011 World Cup squad.
Harbhajan wants Dhoni to have the same intimidating presence that he and Virender Sehwag had some during their best years of international cricket.
“I can tell you how a bowler’s mind works. Suppose I am bowling to Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in tandem, I would be more worried about KP than Bell. I could bowl a couple of dot balls to KP but he had the ability to take me on. Bell, on the other hand, would push for singles. Dhoni like KP can intimidate bowlers. He has that effect,” said one of India’s greatest spinners.
On the team front, Harbhajan said that there is a bit of worry about the number 4 and 6 slots going into the World Cup.
“I don’t see anyone except for KL Rahul fitting into that No. 4 slot. So that’s a bit of a worry and also No 6 slot where Kedar Jadhav will play. I hope that Jadhav gets fully fit before the South Africa game (June 5) as it is a very important slot,” said the member of the two-time World championship winning team.
Apart from world’s best batsman Virat Kohli, the other game changer for India would be Jasprit Bumrah.
“Sachin Tendulkar called him world’s best fast bowler at the moment. Indeed he is, for the impact he has created. If you take Bumrah out of that India line-up, it’s like you rip a heart out of the body. He is that precious. He is your Virat Kohli of Indian bowling,” said Harbhajan.
Harbhajan’s four semi-finalists are India, Australia, England and New Zealand.
Asked why no West Indies or Pakistan, the veteran off-spinner opined, “I am not saying they can’t but New Zealand is a team that does well in big events. Best part of that set up is their boys do the basics well on a consistent basis. That makes a huge difference in a big event,” he concluded.
(With PTI Inputs)