Lalchand Rajput: Pakistan fearless but too dependent on Babar Azam

Rajput, who was India's manager in the victorious T20 World Cup campaign in 2007, feels that Virat Kohli's side stands a good chance to win the title in 2021 with finishers Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant in the mix.

The 59-year-old Rajput, respected across the world for his stints with Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, was the manager of the Indian cricket team which won the T20 World Cup in 2007.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Lalchand Rajput understands how to manage players and the skill-sets required to win T20 games. The 59-year-old erudite coach, respected across the world for his stints with Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, was the manager of the Indian cricket team which won the T20 World Cup in 2007.

Rajput saw the making of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Johannesburg 14 years ago when a young Indian side beat Pakistan to lift the inaugural title. 

In a chat with Sportstar ahead of India's opening game against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup 2021 in Dubai, Rajput decoded the strength of Virat Kohli’s side and explained what Dhoni could offer as the mentor of the contingent in the United Arab Emirates.

What are your thoughts on India's combination for the T20 World Cup 2021?

We have a fantastic top three in K.L. Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. They are one of the best in the business. Suryakumar Yadav is expected to play an important role in the middle-order. And then, you have finishers such as Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant. There are also players like Shardul Thakur who can score runs lower down the order. The batting is very strong.

Rajput also felt MS Dhoni, who has been appointed India's mentor for the T20 World Cup, will bring a sense of calm to the dressing room.   -  AP


What do you think about the bowlers?

I think we have a good mix and variety. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are good T20I bowlers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is making a comeback, too. Left-arm spinner Jadeja, right-arm off-break R. Ashwin along with two leg-spinners in Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy ticks all the boxes. Now it is all about picking the right XI according to the pitch.

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Zimbabwe has recently played Pakistan, and you have seen this side blossom under the leadership of Babar Azam. Your thoughts on Pakistan?

It is a different Pakistan team. They are more positive in their approach and they play fearless cricket. They have a good bowling attack in pacers Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali, supported by spinners Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim. But I feel their batting is too dependent on Babar. If he fires, it is good, but too much dependence on one or two guys makes a side vulnerable. If they don't click on that day, there is a problem. In India, it is different. If Rohit doesn't click, KL will, if KL doesn't, there is Virat - followed by Suryakumar and Rishabh.

Since you have worked with Dhoni in the past, what do you think he can bring to the table as mentor of the side?

He will bring calmness in the dressing room, which is important. He is very cool, and he can make good decisions in tough situations. And I think the best thing is that he always backs the bowlers and the team. He was a player's captain. The players never felt any pressure when Dhoni backed them. I think he will play a similar role as the mentor. He will push the players to go and express themselves.


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