Visakhapatnam, Dec 5 (IANS): In the aftermath of a hard-fought ICC ODI World Cup 2023, where India's dreams were shattered by the Australians in a nail-biting final, the cricketing world now shifts its focus to the T20 World Cup 2024.
Former Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif believes that amidst the rubble of defeat, Rohit Sharma's leadership shines brighter than ever, asserting, "You need skipper Rohit more than a batter Rohit Sharma to lead the team in T20 World Cup 2024."
The Indian team's journey to the ODI World Cup final was marked by ten successive victories, culminating in a showdown with the Australians in Ahmedabad. However, a below-par score of 240 and a relentless Aussie chase handed them their first loss of the tournament, conceding the 50-over world title. Now, as the T20 World Cup looms, the question arises: Will Rohit Sharma continue to lead the Indian side, or will a new captain step up?
Kaif, who acknowledges the brilliance of Rohit both as a player and a leader, argues that the Mumbaikar’s captaincy is indispensable, particularly in the absence of Hardik Pandya.
"Rohit Sharma has to be there because he has got the leadership quality," Kaif told IANS, emphasizing the significance of Rohit's role in guiding a team that demonstrated resilience and skill throughout the ODI World Cup.
“The way he led in the 50 years World Cup, he has done a fantastic job as a leader. Without your prime all-rounder (Hardik Pandya) carrying the team in the finals, how will you justify it. India will need his experience in T20 too. Rohit as a skipper as a batter did a fantastic job which India will need in T20 too.” he added.
As the T20 World Cup approaches, Rohit Sharma's leadership qualities are deemed crucial for India's success. With Virat Kohli and Rohit taking a break from white-ball cricket, the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the Test squad for the South Africa tour raises eyebrows. Kaif also expressed concern, particularly about Pujara's omission, stating, "It will be hard for you Shreyas Iyer to fill the shoes of Pujara."
“I don’t know why Pujara has not been selected. You can’t just get on the African tour without your prime batter, you just cannot rely on current or past forms, something you need the most is called experience and India is going to miss it,” said Kaif.
The former cricketer also dismissed the notion that the Australian team, despite their World Cup victory, was superior to the Indian eleven. Kaif contends, "I can never accept that the best team has won the World Cup. The Indian team is best on paper," pointing out the standout performances of key players like Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, and the team's overall composition.
“Their bowlers struggled throughout the tournament, Warner, Smith, Marsh struggled with the bat, Starc, Hazlewood were in no rhythm then how can you say that the one who wins is the best team. Seeing the Indian team, Rohit led from the front. Virat anchored the innings throughout the tournament, strong middle orders. Our pacers were brilliant, Mohammed Shami who didn’t play the initial games went on to become the highest wicket-taker of the tournament,” said Kaif.
Kaif further shed light on the Legend League Cricket (LLC), where the retired players showcase their skills. Playing for the Manipal Tigers, Kaif underscores the importance of the tournament in maintaining fitness and honing skills, stating, "It has helped a lot to grow more as a player."