As a member of a three-time ODI World Cup-winning Australian team, Adam Gilchrist understands what it takes to handle pressure in crunch situations. And as another World Cup beckons - this time in India - the former wicketkeeper-batter expects India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia to reach the semifinals.
While he believes that India will start as one the ‘most competitive and most feared’ teams after a dominating Asia Cup show, it will be a challenge for the Men in Blue to cut out the noise and focus on clinching the title.
In an interview with Sportstar, Gilchrist - the brand ambassador of University of Wollongong, Australia - explains why the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni should be invited to spend time with the current Indian team and pass on all their experience, leading up to the mega event.
Travis Head has been ruled out of the first half of the tournament in India due to a fracture in his left hand. How much of a blow is it for Australia?
Travis’ injury would be a setback for Australia. He has been very productive at the top of the order, tuning partnerships with David Warner. If he’s to miss out, I think there are still some nice options for Australia. Mitch Marsh has opened in the shortest versions - in T20s and he can very well step up in the top position. There are number of other players as well.
There’s Josh Inglis, he’s a wicketkeeper, but a very skilled batter as well. He could easily come out and carry out a role there. The options that could be at the top are well balanced by middle-order guys like Steve Smith. Hopefully for Australia’s sake, Glenn Maxwell is fit and firing and we get into the middle and lower order with more powerful players like (Marcus) Stoinis and Tim David. It will be a loss to lose Head. But I guess all the teams will have this injury issues at some point leading up to the World Cup.
Australia will be featuring in a three-match ODI series against India, leading up to the World Cup. Though the venues will be different from the ones hosting the ICC event, how much of an opportunity will it be for the teams to get their house in order?
The venues and the conditions created will play a significant part in how strong a preparation this is for Australia and India. Generally looking at various other nations and what they are doing, I can’t think of a better preparation than what Australia and India have. They are the two teams that will be definitely vying for the title, so to go up against some of the best teams in the world in Indian conditions, will be a real benchmark as to how you are travelling, leading into the tournament. There will be some jostling around of the players and some will be rested for a game or two. It gives you the entire squad and that depth of the squad will be tested, provided the wickets are similar to what’s going to be provided to you in the World Cup.
Did you get a chance to catch a glimpse of Mohammad Siraj’s match-winning spell in the Asia Cup final, and what are your thoughts on India’s team combination, leading up to the World Cup?
All squads are playing either depleted or with a changed line-up. Not many teams at this stage are playing with their full strength in every game. It’s just the workload and it’s an opportunity for the players with the niggles to just tie them up. New Zealand are facing some injury issues, leading up to their series against Bangladesh. Some of their players are being rested. Let’s judge teams when they turn up for the World Cup. Teams will try to put up their best side in the first round matches.
At home, India will come in as one of the favourites and one of the most feared teams in the World Cup. They are getting their balance right - in terms of their batting order, bowling options. Of course, their spin bowlers need to fire but for Siraj to do that in an Asia Cup final (is incredible). I don’t know whether those conditions will be similar to what we see in India, but he will certainly capitalise. But this effort will come in with a great deal of confidence for him. To blow away an international opposition team in the final like that, makes a huge statement.
India has a strong batting line-up with a blend of youth and experience. According to you, is there anyone, who could be a standout performer in the tournament?
Shubman Gill. Everything that he has done in the international level, in every format, continues to amaze. He could possibly be one of the standout performers in the tournament. They have got a nice balance of experience, particularly of Rohit and Virat. KL Rahul is an experienced player already, and there’s younger blood in and around that, is a nice balance. The power games of Pandya in the middle is an example. They have got a talented squad and the big thing in India is to handle the expectations. If they can find a way - like they did in 2011 - to not let that expectation swamp them and overshadow everything, they will be very competitive. But obviously, that will be a challenge internally.
Playing at home is a huge challenge. What will your advice be for the youngsters like Gill and Ishan Kishan, who will be playing their first ODI World Cup at home?
I can’t claim to know what it is like to be an Indian player, playing in India (laughs). It’s always intriguing. If I would be in the Indian hierarchy, I would be tapping into guys like Sachin (Tendulkar), MS (Dhoni) to come in and spend time with the group if they are available, and pass on all their experience.
I would have tried to get guys like Yuvraj (Singh), who had so much going on his life during that 2011 tournament, and ask them to speak openly about it.
Virat, obviously, was part of that team without being a feature member of the team at that time. I would be drawing on that experience of playing a home World Cup and try to find out how they did it. If you can keep that external noise quiet, it allows you to play your best cricket.
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