World Cup 2019: India-Pakistan clashes have now become one-sided, says Saqlain Mushtaq

Saqlain, the spin consultant of the England team, also believes that India’s Kuldeep Yadav has the potential to emerge as one of the top spinners in the world.

India is playing very good cricket. It is one of the best sides in the world at the moment and has a chance to win the World Cup, says Saqlain Mushtaq.   -  Shayan Acharya

In his long and illustrious career, former Pakistan spinner, Saqlain Mushtaq, has seen many close games against arch-rival India. He still remembers how the two teams would leave no stone unturned to outclass each other every time they met. But things seem to have changed over the last few years. “Pakistan has been largely inconsistent,” he says while speaking to Sportstar at a plush Southampton hotel.

Saqlain, the spin consultant of the England team, also believes that India’s Kuldeep Yadav has the potential to emerge as one of the top spinners in the world.

India-Pakistan matches were once considered the clash of the evens with both sides having star players. But as the two teams lock horns in a World Cup fixture on Sunday, do you think that things have tilted India’s way?

India is playing very good cricket. It is one of the best sides in the world at the moment and has a chance to win the World Cup. It is much stronger than Pakistan. In our times, we didn’t have much of a difference as we had superstars on both sides. Now we see, in the world rankings, the Indians top the batting line-up. In the bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are in the top-five in the world. It has a top spin pair (in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal) and the side is much better than us in the fielding department as well. That clearly indicates that India is better than us. Whatever rivalry and hype we had every time India and Pakistan met is not there that much now because it has mostly become a one-sided affair for India. Even though we won the Champions Trophy in 2017, I feel India was better than us. We were lucky and we all know that Pakistan is an unpredictable team. On the day Pakistan plays with full passion and with a street smart approach, it can beat any team. But I still feel that in the Champions Trophy, India was better than Pakistan.

India and Pakistan had many quality spinners. Today India has Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal and Pakistan has Shadab Khan. But the overall standard of spin seems to have gone down in Pakistan. What is the reason?

They are focusing too much on the shorter format. You gain confidence and develop your skill set only when you play the longer format. When you play the shorter format, you don’t use your tactics well. In the longer format, there are ways of getting wickets: to come up with plans to trap the batsman. You indulge in mind games. In the shorter format, that’s not the case. You are just trying to save yourself and in the process, you lure them to get out. Once the batsmen go big, you look at creating opportunities to just get a wicket. This strategy will not work in the longer format because there you don’t know how the batsman will play the next ball. You need to look at the batsman, understand him, notice his footwork and expression in a bid to trap him. There are too many things which the longer format teaches you. I always tell the bowlers to put their heart and soul. That will help you gain confidence and also come up with strategies on how to trouble the batsman. By doing that, you put pressure on the batsman. These are the key areas that our young spinners miss today. It is important not to be mechanical in approach but put a thinking cap on.

The spinners are doing well in the World Cup, that too in the English conditions. Are the batsmen not reading them right?

No. Joe Root scored a century against Pakistan despite Shadab bowling well. The good players are watching the ball. Everybody is talking about finger spinners, so the batsmen tend to get into a zone where they fear that the finger spinners have more variation and that they may not be able to read them well. This is leading to a change in mindset among the batsmen and the spinners are making the most of it. The batsmen are sceptical and that’s affecting their game.