Hyderabad: Any India-Pakistan match, particularly in the World Cup, is challenging. This would not be any different, felt former India left-arm spinner SL Venkatapathy Raju, who played in the 1992 and 1996 one-day World Cups. “There are a lot of emotions and passions involved whenever these two teams play in any match. Pressure will always be there in these matches. The World Cup is always a challenge to any player. Pressure is always there and we are playing against Pakistan after a long time. There will always be the palpable tension on eve of the match,’’ the former Hyderabad captain said.
Raju said it would be a different story if it had been played in India as they could have had the home advantage. “Now that it is being played in the UAE, it will be different. It is all about keeping cool and controlling your emotions. Sometimes the emotions come out. The best incident was Aamir Sohail in the 1996 World Cup in Bengaluru when he tried to provoke Venkatesh Prasad. Sohail lost his cool and he made that one mistake and got out.’’
The left-arm spinner was the selector during the 2007 World Cup and accompanied the Mahendra Singh-led Dhoni team to South Africa. “T20 was new to the world, particularly to Asian countries. It was more of a 50-over format and Test cricket. But when we won the World Cup in South Africa, the popularity of the game grew. Surprisingly we had two Asian countries – India and Pakistan – in the final. But after the first T20 World Cup, the game has changed and it has become very popular in associate nations like PNG,’’ said the 52-year-old, who is now a Telugu TV commentator.
It was a masterstroke when Dhoni was asked to lead in the 2007 World Cup. “Nobody was expecting India to win. He showed maturity at a very young age. He had that special quality to remain calm. I think his role as a mentor in this World Cup is one of the best things to happen to Indian cricket. He reads the game very well. Most of the players played under him now.
Dhoni has a different aura. In fact, whenever players like Dhoni, Kapil Dev or Tendulkar walk in there is a special attraction. A young player sitting with these icons of the game gives them a lot of confidence. They can learn the intricacies of the game. Kohli has often been helped by Dhoni. The bonding is very good and that is the biggest plus point.’’
White-ball cricket is all about all-rounders, according to Raju. “These all-rounders can make a lot of difference. It is a challenge for both the batters and bowlers. The batters have changed the complex of the game with innovative batting. I always feel the last five overs of the game changes the game. The batsmen have learnt to play different strokes like reverse sweep, switch hits, scoop, forehand shot tennis shots etc. The shots are manufactured in different ways and sometimes thanks to the technology even a mishit takes the ball to the boundaries.
As for the bowlers, Raju said the pacers and spinners have learnt to bring variation to their armoury. “Stuff like back of the length or back off the hand, cutters, slower bouncer are all part of the bowler armoury. Probably two bowlers — Hazlewood and Shami — rely on their natural swing. Spinners too have developed variation as they found batsmen using the reverse sweeps very effectively. It has important weapons. Now bowlers learn new tricks to outwit the batsmen, vice versa stroke ability. It will be an interesting World Cup. The video analysts play a significant role. A lot of practice goes in the nets session to master the art.’’
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