Sivaramakrishnan said India batsman Hardik Pandya scores at lightning-quick pace(PTI)
Sivaramakrishnan said India batsman Hardik Pandya scores at lightning-quick pace(PTI)

'Scores at lightning pace, can be next finisher after Dhoni': Sivaramakrishnan names India's 'key' in white-ball cricket

  • Ahead of the white-ball series against Sri Lanka, Sivaramakrishnan, in an exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times, talked about captain Shikhar Dhawan, how important Hardik Pandya is to India’s chances and the areas Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal need to improve to regain lost glory.
By Aritra Mukherjee
UPDATED ON JUL 16, 2021 09:37 AM IST

There are few better experts than former India leg-spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to talk about young and upcoming Indian cricketers. Ever since hanging his boots, Sivaramakrishnan has been spending his time either by commentating in domestic and international matches or by heading camps to groom budding cricketers. No wonder he was excited about the Indian side in Sri Lanka that has six fresh faces and is filled with players eager to make it big. Ahead of the white-ball series against the southern neighbours, in which India will play three ODIs and three T20Is, Sivaramakrishnan, in an exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times, talked about captain Shikhar Dhawan, how important Hardik Pandya is to India’s chances and the areas Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal need to improve to regain lost glory.

Here are the excerpts…

Shikhar Dhawan has been named as the India captain for this Sri Lanka series but at the back of his mind, he knows he is fighting for the opener’s spot with Rahul. How important will this tour be for Dhawan?

With experience and the ability to know what shots to play on different pitches, he’s going to be very very useful always. As captain, he needs to lead from the front, nothing like a captain succeeding. I’m sure Shikhar Dhawan is working hard and looking forward to this tour. He’s had a fair amount of success in the IPL. I hope he continues. The very fact that Shikhar has been taken to Sri Lanka, means that he is very much in the selector’s mind otherwise they would have sent somebody younger. He’s definitely there in the scheme of things. He has done well for India in white-ball cricket. If Shikhar gets off to start against this Sri Lanka attack which is not the most difficult then he surely will be in the reckoning. He is going to be competing with players (Rahul and Shaw) who are as good as him talent-wise. It will be a difficult decision for the selectors but having watched Shikhar from U-19 days, I hope that he comes good and does really well.

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Prithvi Shaw in all likelihood will start with Dhawan. He had an indifferent red-ball stint with India. How do you see his white-ball career shaping up?

The white ball doesn’t swing as much as the red ball, so he’s got a big advantage there. Prithvi is a very good player on the offside. If he gets through the first few overs and perhaps improves his leg side strokeplay then he will be more than a handful. He’s young, he’s in capable hands. He just needs to work hard on his fitness, fielding and batting. If he brushes up his technique a little bit with the bat coming down straight, he can do well in red-ball cricket as well. He has done well in Test matches. No reason why he can’t improve his technique, get back and be successful.

Speaking about technique, perhaps none better than Rahul Dravid to work on the slight adjustments the youngsters need to succeed at this level…

Rahul Dravid was technically very sound. Probably after Sunil Gavaskar, one of the most technically correct Indian batsmen. That will rub off on the players and he’s a good person to chat with. Players won’t feel apprehensive about reaching out to him. He will tell the batsman how to bat and probably will tell the bowlers how a batsman approaches his innings so Rahul Dravid can help in all departments of the game. Apart from technique, I think his tenacity… especially the mental part is something that a lot of people can learn from. Cricket is played round the year pandemic or not, it is important to stay mentally strong and pick the brains of Dravid.

Hardik has not been bowling regularly, how important is he for the balance of the Indian side?

He’ll have an integral part to play. The moment he starts bowling after regaining full fitness, I think Hardik will be the key for India. After a long time, we’ve got a seam-bowling all-rounder who balances the side. We don’t have fast bowlers who can bat well. Even at the Test level, our fast bowlers are not big-time contributors with the bat but Hardik can do that. And he can get runs in lightning quick time. He can destroy the opposition. If Hardik is fully fit, he becomes a tremendous asset to the team.

Is there too much pressure on Hardik to perform not only as an all-rounder but also to play the role of a finisher with the bat?

That has been the problem for India… Finishers after MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. We are still looking to find a good finisher after Dhoni. Hardik Pandya can be an extremely dangerous finisher. It is important for him to regain full fitness and then when he starts to bowl, he will gain more confidence. Hardik can contribute to all three departments of the game. Every time he contributes, he will become a better cricketer both technically and mentally. The key for India’s success in white-ball cricket will be the fitness of Hardik Pandya and if he can play to his potential then it will be awesome.

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It’ll be a crime not to ask you about spinners. What is the issue with Kuldeep Yadav?

Because of the pandemic, there was no domestic cricket. They had white-ball cricket but they didn’t have Ranji Trophy. Red-ball cricket is a format that allows you to bowl long spells and when you do that you learn a lot more, you become far more consistent. That also helps in your confidence so it’s a series of things that contribute to your growth. Because of the absence of the Ranji Trophy, Kuldeep has not been able to go back, play for his state and become a better bowler. Hopefully, this all ends soon. Kuldeep is still a young man, who can make a comeback.

WATCH | India vs Sri Lanka: ‘Fully fit Hardik Pandya a tremendous asset,' says Sivaramakrishnan

And what about his partner Chahal? Bairstow and Roy attacked him, taking him for more than 10 runs an over. Has he been worked out?

Chahal definitely has to have a little more in his armoury. You’ve got to be a big turner of the cricket ball. As a leg-spinner, you should be able to turn the ball on any pitch. Once the turn is big enough, the batsman won’t leave the crease, he will be very tentative to charge down the track because if he doesn’t get to the pitch of the ball, he’s gonna be stumped. When Chahal came in first, he was a very steady bowler. People thought they could hit him all over the park, they could go after him but Chahal got a lot of wickets. But now batsmen are more methodical against him. They are finding shots against Chahal. They played the sweeps and the reverse. They are going down the ground when he pitches it within the stumps. Chahal needs to improve his bowling tactics and keep the batsmen guessing.

Varun Chakravarthy is different from the other Indian spinners. Is there a case for him in the T20 World Cup squad?

Most of the teams don’t have a great idea of what Varun Chakravarthy bowls. Being the mystery bowler that he is and if he has a good tour of Sri Lanka then it will be good. India should not overexpose him and play him as a mystery bowler in the World Cup and you never know, he could be very successful.

A second-string England side whitewashed Pakistan in the ODIs, do you think this young Indian side can do the same against Sri Lanka?

When you get youngsters in the squad, there is more energy, more athleticism, more positivity. For us, they are Indian cricketers, they are wearing Indian colours. We will route for them hoping they will definitely prove a point. If you are asking for a prediction then it will be 2-1 in both the series in India’s favour.

(Watch the 1st ODI on 18th July 2021 LIVE on SONY TEN 1 and SONY SIX in English from 3.00 pm IST)

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