Interview with Brad Hodge: "Strong batting, spin make India World T20 favourites"
Former Australia cricketer Brad Hodge believes the batting firepower from the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma backed by some top quality spin, that too in home conditions, make India favourites for the World Twenty20 that will be played across seven venues from March 8 to April 3.
"Ah yes! The World T20 will be something to watch out for. India are definitely the favourites considering they are playing at home. They will be very tough to beat. Home ground advantage does make a difference even in the shortest format of the game as the players are aware of the conditions, the knowledge of the wickets, the grounds with which they bring their skills into play," Hodge told IANS in a telephonic interview from Dubai.
"India has some very top players. The quality of players they have is amazing, like Rohit and Virat, both of whom are in good form. They can post big totals and then unleash their spinners on their opponents, who in home conditions will be lethal."
The former top-and-middle-order batsman felt that 2010 champions England, given their current form, also have a great chance of picking up their second title.
"Apart from India, England have a good chance. I think they will be the surprise package. They have been playing some really good cricket recently, winning the Test series in South Africa. Australia does have the firepower but winning in India is always a challenge. Also, they have some injured players," said the 41-year-old, who has played for as many as three Indian Premier League (IPL) teams.
"India or other sub-continental countries are not really foreign territories any more simply because a lot of cricket is played there, whether it is the IPL or other bilateral tournaments. It is not so much of a foreign territory, just somewhere people go to play."
Lately, there has been a lot of chatter on the fashion of dismissal of Steve Smith in the first T20 between Australia and India. The Australia skipper was answering questions from commentators while batting using an on-field microphone at Adelaide on Tuesday.
Next thing we know, Smith lost his wicket when he chipped the ball to Kohli with the India captain making a "chatterbox" hand gesture to Smith, who was returning to the pavilion. This stormed up a backlash from Australian fans who blamed the broadcaster for "distracting" the skipper.
However, Hodge, who has played six Tests, 25 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 15 T20Is, played down the controversy, saying that "it is good for television and entertainment".
"I commentated regularly while playing the Big Bash League (BBL). I did not find it to be distracting. It is good for the TV world and is entertaining. I just think it is one of those strange coincidences that took place that day. I don't have a problem with that," said the right-hander.
Hodge is currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to play the Masters Champions League (MCL) -- a T20 tournament for retired cricket stars that will take place in Dubai and Sharjah from January 28 to February 13.
"It is a privilege and the level of excitement is really high. Once again I have to go out there and hit as many as I can. We have a real chance to entertain. The flavour is amazing. It is great to see players like Virender Sehwag, Muttiah Muralitharan and others who once dominated world cricket to cross the white line again," said the Victorian, who will be playing for the Gemini Arabians.
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )