Hyderabad, September 30
Kuldeep Yadav is the best spinner going into the World Cup and will give India a distinct advantage in the middle overs through the course of the 50-over showpiece, reckons former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam.
The 28-year-old Kuldeep is being seen as India's trump card in the World Cup at home, having taken 33 wickets in 17 ODIs at an average of 16.03 this year.
Since coming back from a knee injury, Kuldeep has worked on his arm speed and angles, helping him get a bagful of wickets in the middle overs.
Alam, who has been to India multiple times as a player and having also served as a manager of the Pakistan team in the past, feels it will be advantage India in the mother of all clashes in Ahmedabad on October 14.
“The way India played in Asia Cup and played the final (decimating Sri Lanka). They look like the team to beat. Their spin attack stands out. Kuldeep is going to play a major role in the tournament. He will test the batters of all teams,” Alam told PTI on Saturday.
“Jadeja and Kuldeep make a lethal combination. Kuldeep is a match winner. He is the best spinner in this World Cup in my opinion. Now you also have (Ravichandran) Ashwin back,” said the 81-year-old, who was born in Hoshiarpur in the pre-Independence India.
Alam added that India's batting, including greats like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, as well as the in-form Shubman Gill makes the hosts a strong contender to win the trophy.
'Spin attack a concern for Pakistan'
Alam said Pakistan spinners, however, don't inspire the same confidence.
Pakistan could not defend 345 in the opening warm-up match against New Zealand here on Friday as their premier spinner Shadab Khan did not bowl while left-arm spinner Mohmmad Nawaz leaked runs.
Leggie Usama Mir, though, made an impact with two wickets.
“In the bowling department, Pakistan's spin attack is weak in the middle overs. In Asia Cup we struggled. It is important for them to do well in this phase else teams will easily score 300 against them. Naseem Shah is young and quick and he too will be missed with the new ball,” said Alam referring to Shah's injury.
'Stick with Fakhar Zaman'
Fakhar Zaman has been battling an inconsistent run and pressure is building on him ahead of the team's opening World Cup fixture against Netherlands, here on October 6. Abdullah Shafique can replace him at the top.
“On these true wickets in India, most games will be high-scoring. With Fakhar you can expect anything, he will fire in one out of five games but you have to take that risk with him,” said Alam.
'Since my first tour of India in 1961, Pakistan have been accorded warm welcome'
Barring two members, Pakistan players are visiting India for the first time including captain Babar Azam and Shaheen Shah Afridi. Upon their arrival here on Wednesday, the entire squad was overwhelmed with an unexpected welcome at the airport.
For Alam, who has also coached the Punjab team in Ranji Trophy in the early 2000s, it doesn't come as a surprise.
"Whenever we go to India we get a memorable welcome. I have spent two years there (as Punjab coach). People to people contact should be encouraged in tense times like these,” he said.
Alam said Pakistan cricketers will feel the pressure of playing on Indian soil.
“There will be pressure, for sure. It depends on how team management treat the players to ensure they focus only on cricket. You get four years to prepare for an event like this. You have to do something special so people remember for you a long time. It is a great opportunity for Babar and Co,” added Alam.
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