The show has merely begun for Virat Kohli’s Team India in the 2021 T20 World Cup, but it has already reached a climactic point. One wrong step in Sunday’s Super 12 clash against New Zealand at the Dubai International Stadium could see them fall headlong towards an untimely catastrophe.
The BlackCaps, faced with a similar situation, wouldn’t mind playing the Men in Blue in such a high-stakes battle, thanks to their superior record against the latter in ICC tournaments. Like India, they came second to Pakistan in their first game, but their 5-wicket defeat was not as humiliating as India’s 10-wicket thrashing.
As an entire nation waits with bated breath for the “virtual quarter-final”, Indian cricketer Manoj Tiwary is confident of India’s resurgence. Currently serving as West Bengal’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, the flamboyant batter spared time from his busy schedule on Saturday to speak exclusively to Sportskeeda about India’s T20 World Cup campaign in general and the New Zealand tie in particular.
Q: How do you view the situation in Group 2 at the moment? Is Sunday’s game against New Zealand a do-or-die one for India?
Tiwary: Yes, absolutely! It will be a do-or-die game for India as they need to win every game from here to reach the semi-finals. We know this Indian team is capable of pulling off strong comebacks and they’ve proven it multiple times in the recent past.
Q: What did you make of India’s performance in the first match against Pakistan? How, in your opinion, can they bounce back?
Tiwary: I feel the failure of the top order cost India that game.
Your batting order has to be flexible. I would prefer a left-hander batting at no. 4 rather than the top four batters being right-handers. If you send in a left-hander at no. 4, it will force the bowlers to think differently and it will also affect their lines and lengths.
I think Ravindra Jadeja can be tried at no. 4 because he has been in tremendous batting form of late. They may use Rishabh (Pant) or Surya Kumar Yadav at that spot, but I’ll go with Jadeja. He is good at rotating the strike and can unleash the big shots towards the end.
Reshuffling the batting is therefore very important; you can’t be rigid in T20s. I think India need to be pro-active in decision-making in order to stay ahead of the opposition.
Q: You’ve played alongside Mohammed Shami for a long time. What is your reaction to the vicious comments hurled at him after the Pakistan match?
Tiwary: It only exposed the mentality of some people. How can anyone forget his match-winning performances for India? I just want to say “Get well soon” to those people who’ve easily forgotten his contribution to Indian cricket, including his match-winning performance against Pakistan in the 2015 World Cup and his hat-trick against Afghanistan in the 2019 World Cup. The concerned authorities should take strict action against the offenders.
Q: India’s team composition came under heavy scrutiny after the first match. Would you suggest any changes in their playing XI for the New Zealand game?
Tiwary: As I already said, Jadeja should be promoted to the fourth spot. Rishabh can follow him with the last few overs remaining because that suits his game.
If the team management decides to bring Ishan Kishan in, then Surya misses out. But we’ve seen that Ishan has done better while opening the batting, so he is unlikely to get a chance in the middle order. Surya has a wide range of shots in his armory, so he’ll come in handy at the fag end of an innings.
If they want to persist with Hardik Pandya, they have to find the ideal slot for him. The think-tank believes that he is better than the batters who are sitting out. For him to return to form, it’s imperative that he gets adequate time in the middle. It would be unfair to drop him after just one game.
Regarding the bowling unit, I think Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy will play. Besides, Shardul Thakur can replace Bhuvneshwar Kumar, given his recent form. Shardul has an amazing knack for taking early wickets and is also a better batter than Bhuvneshwar.
Q: Rohit Sharma’s record against left-arm pacers has been quite underwhelming. Is this a major concern, and how can he counter Trent Boult's threat?
Tiwary: I think it will not be an issue because Rohit has faced Boult many times in the Mumbai Indians nets. You need to understand that Boult and Shaheen Afridi have different bowling styles. Shaheen is a very tall bowler with a surprise element about him. The ball that got rid of Rohit last Sunday was a peach of delivery!
Q: If you were to pick four probable semi-finalists, who would they be?
Tiwary: It’s very difficult for me to pick [the probable semi-finalists] because I haven’t been able to follow the tournament very closely. Pakistan would definitely be one of them. England will be another. India are in a difficult situation at the moment. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.
Q: Your message to the Indian team...
Tiwary: They are a very mature and experienced team. They need to win all their games with good net run rates. I am sure they will come back strongly and I wish them all the best.