Azharuddin backs Shreyas Iyer, R Ashwin for India's ODI World Cup 2023 challenge; says Gill will be key player
Former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin endorses Shreyas Iyer's inclusion in India's ODI World Cup 2023 squad and supports R Ashwin's potential addition while discussing team dynamics and pressures ahead of the tournament.
Former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin is firmly in favour of Shreyas Iyer earning a place in India's playing eleven for the upcoming ODI World Cup 2023, starting on October 5 in India. With India facing a dilemma in the middle order due to the competition between Iyer, Ishan Kishan, and Suryakumar Yadav, Azharuddin believes Iyer's recent performances give him the edge.
Iyer, who had been India's designated number four before suffering a back injury that sidelined him for six months, made a compelling case for his inclusion by scoring a attacking century in Indore against Australia in the 2nd ODI of the 3-match series. Azharuddin emphasized the positive intent and aggressive style of Iyer's batting.
In an interview with PTI, the former Indian skipper said, "Good competition always brings the best out of the players. Shreyas is an exciting player and he really batted well the other day after losing out on games due to his back issues. He is very positive with his intent and looks to score all the time. He can make a big impact in the game. It is very hard to look past him unless you are looking for a left- hander in the middle, then Ishan comes into picture. However, I feel Shreyas has done enough."
Azharuddin endorses R Ashwin's inclusion
Azharuddin also voiced support for the potential inclusion of veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the 15-man squad. Ashwin, who had played only two ODIs since 2017 before the ODI series against Australia, demonstrated his skills in the first two ODIs. Azharuddin praised Ashwin's variations and his ability to contribute with the bat.
"Ashwin is someone who should be in the team. It is not very easy to line up against him as he has got a lot of variations. The team has already been announced. It remains to be seen whether Axar is in there or not. Instead of two left-arm spinners, Ashwin can also bat well, he should find a place," Azhar said.
Preference for Mohammad Shami over Shardul Thakur
Azharuddin expressed a preference for Mohammad Shami over Shardul Thakur in the playing eleven, emphasising Shami's consistent performance and ability to contribute with the bat when needed. He noted that Shardul Thakur is more of a bowling all-rounder.
Azharuddin observed that the recent selection showed that the management has not made a final decision regarding the fast bowling combination. While Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj are certain inclusions, Azharuddin advocated for Shami due to his track record.
"Shami has been doing well for a long time. Shardul too has done alright in the limited chances he has got . But you don't require everyone to bat in the 11. Shami has also batted well at times. Shardul is a bowling all-rounder not a batting all-rounder. When you already have Haridk Pandya you don't need Shardul in the playing eleven," he said.
Shubman Gill, the player to watch out for
Azharuddin singled out Shubman Gill as the Indian player to watch in the World Cup, highlighting Gill's sensational form over the past year and his remarkable five ODI centuries. "This time, Gill will be the main player for India. Obviously, the others around him are also batting well. If he can give India a good start it will set the ball rolling," said Azhar.
Azharuddin acknowledged the mounting pressure on the Indian team, given their failure to win an ICC event since 2013. He anticipated a highly competitive World Cup and emphasised that India's strong team and home advantage would make the tournament even more intense. "It is going to be a very competitive world cup. India have a very good team. Grounds will be full as India are hosting after a long time."
Azharuddin's perspective on team peaking at the right time
Following India's Asia Cup 2023 title winning effort and ODI series win against Australia, all eyes are on the hosts of the showpiece event, with many enthusiasts believing that the Men in Blue are peaking at the right time. "I really don't understand this peaking business. When you are playing you are playing well, doesn't matter whether you are peaking or not peaking. Sometimes you lose two three matches even after peaking and that has happened with this team. Rather than thinking about all of this, one should focus on the game, rather than thinking about semis and finals straightaway," Azharuddin noted.
"Yes, there will be a lot of pressure to win an ICC tournament which we have not won for a long time. I am sure the boys are fully aware of that," he added.
Azharuddin expressed his disappointment that Hyderabad, his hometown, is not hosting an India match in the World Cup. He believed that discussions with the BCCI should have been conducted to secure a marquee India vs. Pakistan match in Hyderabad, emphasizing the city's deserved inclusion.