By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Sachin Tendulkar believes the quality of India’s batting is sufficient to make up for the deficiency of left-handed batsmen in the lineup, the cricketing great told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the World Cup.
A left-right batting competition is of significant value in modern one-day internationals but two-time champions India have only one frontline southpaw in opener Shikhar Dhawan.
Spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja could make that two if he is picked in the playing side, but Tendulkar is confident the team have enough firepower to overcome the shortage of left-handed batsmen.
“Ideally left-right combination is something which disturbs the bowler’s line and length and also the captain has to readjust his fielding,” Tendulkar, 46, said in an interview ahead of the World Cup, which starts in England on Thursday.
“But if you have good quality batters, which we do, then it really doesn’t matter whether it is a left-hand right-hand combination. We have some solid batters who can deliver the punch.”
With the experienced partnership of Rohit Sharma and Dhawan locked in as openers and captain Virat Kohli coming in at first drop, the 1983 and 2011 champions have a top order the rival of any in the game.
But they will go into this year’s World Cup with a soft underbelly having failed to settle on a number four, with KL Rahul the favourite to fill the position after his century in Tuesday’s practice match against Bangladesh.
Following next in the batting order will be veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose 341 ODI appearances makes him the most experienced player at this year’s World Cup.
India’s 2011 World Cup winning captain is considered the best finisher in contemporary cricket and his inputs from behind the stumps would be as important, said Tendulkar.
“It’s important that someone who’s standing behind the wickets has played for such a long time and has also led India and is in the best possible position to figure out what’s happening off the surface,” Tendulkar said.
“Whether the ball is stopping, bouncing, or skidding, whatever it is, he knows exactly how the ball is coming and he knows where the gaps are and how to close those gaps. His contribution and inputs are always going to be important.
“Other keepers also try and do the same thing but MS’s experience is going to count a lot.”
India boast of world’s top-ranked ODI bowler in quick Jasprit Bumrah while wristspinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal also feature in the top 10.
Tendulkar, who remains the only cricketer to score 100 centuries across formats, played six consecutive World Cups from 1992 and holds the records for most runs and centuries in the tournament’s history.
He is confident India have a “complete” bowling attack to win their third 50-over title.
“We have someone like Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) who swings the ball, (Mohammed) Shami who is skiddy off the pitch, Bumrah who is the number one bowler in the world in this format,” said Tendulkar, a member of India’s 2011 World Cup triumph at home.
“We have someone like Chahal and Kuldeep who are wristspinners. So there is variety also in the middle overs. Ravindra Jadeja can keep things tight.
“And we have supporting bowlers in Hardik (Pandya), Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav. So all in all a well-balanced bowling attack I would say.”
The World Cup returns to the 10-team format to maintain quality of the competition after featuring 14 in each of the last two editions.
The decision was criticised by from former players and associate members, who are upset at being denied the chance to rub shoulders with the top sides of the world.
“Ideally if it’s called the World Cup then the world should be participating. We need to find ways to engage more teams yet keep that standard of playing high,” Tendulkar said.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. We need to find ways to do that. I will love to see more than 10 teams participating but also at the same time not compromise on the standard of playing.
“It’s going to be a lengthy process. Lesser teams should get more exposure to get ready for big tournaments.”
India suffered the ignominy of being eliminated in the opening round of the tournament in 2007 while 2019 hosts England met the same fate last time the showpiece event was held in Australia and New Zealand four years back.
But this year’s format — which will see all teams playing each other with the top four advancing to the semi-finals — will ensure teams have a shot at redemption, according to Tendulkar.
“This format still gives you a chance to come back. You are not out even before you wake up,” Tendulkar said.
“Sometimes it can be harsh. Since this is the World Cup, one would want to get another chance. If it’s a bad day then you have time to recover and this format allows you to recover.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)