The 2019 edition of crickets biggest showpiece event gets underway this Thursday and while pundits are busy debating whether India and England will do justice to their favourites tag, former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne has once again bowled the perfect googly. He has backed Aaron Finch and boys to go on and lift the Cup come July 14 at the historic Lords cricket ground.
Speaking to IANS, Warne has backed his choice with mathematics and that involved not just the performance of the team in the lead-up to the World Cup, but also the return of two of their strongest players in Steve Smith and David Warner. But the legend doesn’t stop there and says that the fact that Aussies love to rise to the challenge of big-ticket events will work in their favour as well.
“I think everybody wrote Australia off because they were pretty ordinary and played some poor cricket over the last 12 months, but over the last couple of months, the ODI team has found its belief. They have started to think like all the Aussie sides of yesteryears and they think they can win it from anywhere. And you can’t manufacture that. You have to do it a few times.
“I think going into the World Cup, India and England have to be the favourites because they have played the best cricket in recent times. But if you look back at the history of how Australia performed at World Cups, they won the last World Cup and have won 4 of the last 6 tournaments so they enjoy the big tournament and I believe they can win the World Cup and I think they will win the World Cup.
“However, they have to get past a very strong India and England side. If you ask me who are the favourites, it is India and England, but I just think Australia have come back together at the right time and you put Warner and Smith in that mix, it is suddenly looking a very good side.
“He (Smith) is a huge player. If you look back at the time in March last year and you say who were the top five players in the world, you would say Kohli, AB de Villiers, Steve Smith, David Warner and Kane Williamson. So Australia had two of the top five players and to lose them was a big loss,” he pointed.
Moving from Australia to India, it is no secret that Warne has worked closely with Kuldeep Yadav and the latter is a self-confessed Warne fan. But the spin wizard revealed that he has also worked with Yuzvendra Chahal and that the two could in fact hold the trump card for India if the wicket does take turn in England this summer.
“I will not give away the secrets of what me and Kuldeep spoke about, but Anil Kumble first introduced him to me a few years back. And then in Australia, Ravi Shastri and Kohli asked me if I would mind speaking to him. He himself messaged me asking if we could have a session and I said sure. So we started working and every morning before my commentary stint he would walk up to me and we would chat about things.
“I would give him some tips, discuss some basics, talk about some tactical stuff which would also have some technical aspects, but more about plans and how to set up batsman. When you help someone a bit and then you see him do well, it is rewarding. I am always keen to help any spinner. I have also had a few sessions with Chahal. In the World Cup, a lot depends on the weather. If the weather is like last time when India was there, they will have a role to play. They will have a big impact in the World Cup,” he said.
From budding youngsters in Kuldeep and Chahal to the legendary M.S. Dhoni, Warne feels that it was foolish of people to even question his inclusion in India’s World Cup team. For the former spinner, Dhoni knows when the time is right to walk into sunset and till then, Indian cricket should try and extract as much as they can from the man who won them the World T20 in 2007, the 50-over World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013.
“M.S. Dhoni has been a terrific servant for Indian cricket, he has given his everything to Indian cricket. I can’t believe some people questioned that MS shouldn’t have been there for the World Cup. The thing about retirement is that it is better they say why are you than why don’t you. Dhoni is the only person who knows when the right time is and as a player you know. And whether that is after the World Cup or five years after the tournament he will know when the right time is. Dhoni can retire whenever he wants because he has been that good,” he smiled.
(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)