'He is a major threat to Pakistan': Hayden heaps praise on India batter, identifies another youngster as 'destroyer'
- Ahead of the blockbuster clash between India and Pakistan at the T20 World Cup on Sunday, Matthew Hayden named two Indian batters Babar Azam and Co. should watch out for.
The cricketing world is two days away from witnessing the grand spectacle – that is India vs Pakistan at the T20 World Cup. The two countries are no strangers to facing each other at World Cups – both T20 and 50 overs format alike, and although India and Pakistan no longer engage in bilateral ties, they do compete regularly at ICC events. October 24 in Dubai will be the first time in over two years and that India and Pakistan will renew the mother of all battles at the T20 World Cup.
Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden identified India opener KL Rahul and wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant as the major threats to Pakistan in their T20 WC opener on Sunday. The excitement around the India vs Pakistan - the first between the two sides since the 2019 World Cup - Group 2 encounter has slowly started to reach the optimum levels and Hayden, who is Pakistan's batting consultant for this World Cup, is no alien to it.
"I sense that KL Rahul is a major threat to Pakistan. His dominance in the shorter format is good. Someone like Rishabh Pant, with a cheeky smile and his brash nature and beautiful vision for the game, is a destroyer," Hayden said at a virtual media interaction.
Rahul, one of the top run-getters in the IPL, smashed a sparkling fifty against England in India's first warm-up match and also looked in great touch against Australia in the second warm-up match. Pant, on the other hand, had a pretty good IPL himself and hit some lusty blows against England. Hayden said nothing compares to an India-Pakistan encounter, not even the Ashes.
"For Australia, England is their old guard as they would say, as at various stages we have been ruled by the Kingdom of the UK and cricket wouldn't be on our shores if it hadn't been the case. But nothing also, that I have ever seen throughout various elements of the game that I have been part of, ever matches the rivalry between India and Pakistan."
The 49-year-old left-hander played 103 Tests for Australia, 20 of them in the Ashes, scoring 1461 runs. Hayden, who not too long ago was appointed batting coach, accepts there is enormous pressure of an India-Pakistan match, often resulting in bitter public reaction for the losing side.
"There is an obvious pressure of an Indo-Pak match, as there is obvious pressure if you play against England if you are an Australian, but the pressure is only what you allow it to be," he said. "It's a history-making opportunity. We can present all the stats, homework and research and nothing can replace what will be the state, what we dream about, write about and coach about, which will be the event itself."
After the eight-team qualifying rounds, the Super 12 stage starts from Saturday. Hayden, who joined the Pakistan team last week, said players were in a good place.
"The mood is high, the relationships within the team are very strong and the players seem very happy and relaxed in spite of the obvious pressure starting from our first match."