India will be unlucky if it doesn't reach World Cup semis, says Mudassar Nazar

With Mohammed Amir and Wahab Riaz joining Pakistan's squad, Mudassar Nazar feels that Pakistan has all the potential to make it big in this edition of the World Cup.

Former Pakistan player Mudassar Nazar is a veteran of 76 Tests and 122 ODIs.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar feels India will be ‘unlucky’ if it fails to reach the semifinals in the World Cup — which gets underway in England next week.

“They have all the bases covered. They have got top-class batsmen who can bat deep down the order. They have the best batsman in the world (Virat Kohli) as its captain. The fast bowlers are quick and they have a couple of spin bowlers as well. It has all the thing, so India will be unlucky if it doesn’t reach the knockout stage,” Nazar told Sportstar on Thursday.

The former cricketer, who is now the head of Pakistan Cricket Board Academy, however, admits that anything could happen in the last-four stage.

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“In the knock out stage, anything can happen. In 2017 Champions Trophy, it lost to Pakistan in the final despite being the favourite. So, one bad day can hurt teams. But with nine matches in the league stage, India should sail,” he said.

Ahead of the World Cup, Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar has made it clear that depending solely on Kohli could hurt India’s chances in the tournament. But Nazar doesn’t think that way. “Look at your two opening batsmen (Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan), they are top class. When Sharma gets going, he outscores anyone. The middle-order needs to (stick around) and then there is (MS) Dhoni. He comes with so much experience. So, their batting looks quite formidable,” Nazar, who featured in 76 Tests and 122 ODIs for Pakistan, said.

While he is confident about India’s chances, Nazar also feels that Pakistan has all the potential to make it big in this edition of the World Cup. With Mohammed Amir and Wahab Riaz joining the squad, Nazar sees it as a ‘positive’.

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“It is a very positive sign. There is Wahab Riaz and Shadab on top of that. All three coming in to side (will help). The pitches so far have been very placid, so I feel Shadab is going to be very useful with his leg-spin. He can be brought in when you need to pick wickets. Aamir can open the bowling and pick a few wickets and Riaz can bowl when the ball starts reversing and also at the death. So, this was something missing in the Pakistan team when they played ODIs against England.”

“Pakistan batsmen posted huge totals, but they lost the games. So, it was important to get out of the hole and Pakistan has done that by making a few changes in the squad.”

Excited about pace sensation Hasnain

As the team gears up, the focus is on the side’s young pace sensation Mohammad Hasnain — who can clock 150kmph — and having mentored the young gun at the academy, Nazar is excited about his future. His has been a rapid rise. Hasnain played club cricketer at 12, and was named in the Pakistan U-19 side at the age of 17. A year later, he created storm in the Pakistan Super League, featuring for Quetta Gladiators. And now, he is set to play his first World Cup.

However, he suffered an injury last year, which saw him missing out on the U-19 World Cup. But even, then the PCB backed him in the rehabilitation process and ensured that he was back in action again.

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“He bowls quick and has variation. He hurt his ankle during the U-19 days, but he never lost hope. And then he came back strong in the Pakistan Super League. I hope he grows stronger and bowls faster and of course become a better bowler. He still has a lot to do on his run-up,” Nazar said.

As Pakistan fans dream of bringing the Cup home — the last time it won the title was in 1992 — Nazar hopes the Sarfraz Ahmed-led team recreates magic in the English conditions. After all, it has been a long wait for another World Cup title!