Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif said on Wednesday that pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah’s return to the national side will hold key to India’s performance at the 50-over World Cup scheduled to be played in India in October-November.
“Jasprit Bumrah has come back. I am looking forward to his performance and the difference he makes to the side,” said Kaif to the media at the launch of former India manager and senior cricket official Amrit Mathur’s book, Pitchside at the India International Centre.
Bumrah, who hasn’t featured in any game since the T20I vs Australia on September 25 last year, has been picked for the India T20I side as skipper for the series in Ireland. The right-arm pacer had been recuperating at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
“The biggest factor [for India at the World Cup] is Bumrah. If he doesn’t come back well then India will face difficulty,” added Kaif who was unamused by a reporter’s view that India’s bowling stocks are rich at this time.
“I don’t agree with you at all. At the moment, Bumrah is not there or is only coming back. There is no back-up for Bumrah. If he doesn’t play, we lose. We lost Asia Cup and World Cup last year. If Bumrah isn’t there we will lose this time too,” added the former India international, who has represented the country in 13 Tests and 125 ODIs.
The former right-handed middle-order batsman also criticised senior batsmen Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli for staying back in the West Indies for ODIs.
“West Indies tour [where India won the ODI series 2-1] was taken very lightly. I won’t judge who they are playing or who they aren’t. West Indies are struggling, they couldn’t qualify for the World Cup. I don’t know what [combination] they (India) are trying now. But the main test will start from the Asia Cup [to run from August 30 to September 17 in Pakistan and Sri Lanka]. I would want them to put in their best XI in the Asia Cup,” he said before making his displeasure over Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma known. Both seniors missed the last two one-dayers.
“There is confusion. If Virat [Kohli] and Rohit [Sharma] had to take a break, they shouldn’t have gone there. You can rest here. West Indies tour isn’t that big. Our second team can probably beat them. [So] I won’t judge the Indian team now. But I will judge them as per Asia Cup about what is their planning or what XI they play and what 15 they take to World Cup. You have taken 17 players to West Indies for ODIs (Siraj withdrew later). You should have 15 and should know which 11 to play and which four to sit out.”
Kaif, however, backed Kohli to score.
“Virat Kohli endured a rough patch in recent past. But now he has come back to form. He is getting runs. His form in IPL, the way he played against Pakistan in World Cup, the way he scored the winning runs against [Pakistan pace bowler] Haris Rauf, all bode well. He returned to form in [last year’s] Asia Cup against Afghanistan and he didn’t stop after that. Kohli getting runs will be a key factor for India.”
The 42-year-old, who now commentates, lauded the performance of Ishan Kishan and said he is likely to be in Indian team.
“At the moment India are not looking the strongest on paper because they are missing their key players – KL Rahul is being missed, [Shreyas] Iyer is being missed and Rishabh Pant is also being missed…. I think he (Kishan) will be in the squad because he has done well. He is someone who can open and keep wickets. Because KL Rahul has fitness issues, a back-up keeper is required in the squad.”
Even though he lavished praise on Sanju Samson, he said that not all among Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Samson will get to be in the World Cup squad.
“Only two of these will be in.”
India’s ODI Asia Cup campaign – where they play all their games in Sri Lanka — will be a precursor to the World Cup.