Hypothetical as it may sound, picture this. The current no.1 ODI bowler in the world Jasprit Bumrah marking his run-up as the legendary Brian Charles Lara takes guard. Having seen the former West Indies skipper bat over the years against the likes of Allan Donald, Glenn McGrath and Wasim Akram among others, one would expect a high-voltage clash on the pitch as Lara was always known to take the attack to the opposition bowlers, be it pace or spin. But the maestro reveals otherwise.
Speaking to IANS, one of the absolute legends of the game says that for Bumrah, he would not opt for the counter-attacking game. Rather, he would try and unsettle the pacer by continuously rotating the strike. Lara believes that not giving the India pacer the opportunity to settle down in line and length can be the key to succeed against him.
“First of all, if I was facing him, I would look to get off the strike (laughs). He is very good and someone who has an awkward action. Batsman have to keep their eyes on him and I would maybe try to apply pressure on him by rotating the strike. In ODI cricket, you have the option of picking up a lot more singles than in T20s. In the past, you have seen that when batsmen looked to go after guys like Muttiah Muralitharan or Sunil Narine, it is very difficult and Bumrah has that sort of an effect. I would encourage batsmen to try to get six singles from his over. He is one of India’s best bowlers and then maybe you can look at other areas to get runs from.
“I don’t believe counter attacking against such a good bowler is a great idea. He might have a one-off bad day and then batsmen can capitalise but generally he has had very good days. I think I would look to pay that respect,” he explained.
From one class act to another, while Lara has played against Sachin Tendulkar, he has watched current heartthrob Virat Kohli rip apart opposition attacks over the last couple of years and for the West Indian, Kohli is not human. Calling it as he sees it, Lara believes that the India captain has changed the way the game is perceived not just by current players, but also by youngsters who want to go ahead and play for their countries in the future.
“He is a machine. He has brought a different cricketer to the table than what we were accustomed to back in the 80s and 90s. Fitness was always important, but it wasn’t as important as it has become now. For the amount of cricket that is being played, you got to be physically fit. He is someone who spends time in the gym and shows working on your fitness is the key. He is pretty much a run-machine.
“A guy is going out and scoring runs almost every single time he goes out to bat. Tendulkar to me is one of the greatest of all times and he had his opportunity and he left a great legacy so I wouldn’t want to compare the two. But Kohli is a special talent and is a great example for all the young and upcoming cricketers,” he pointed.
Coming to the showpiece event, while the wickets are expected to be dry and aiding the slower bowlers, Lara feels that the famous English weather could surprise anyone on a given day. And that is why having a good balanced attack will hold the key for the teams as they look to lift the Cup. In fact, India’s all-round bowling attack is what makes Lara believe that Kohli’s boys have a good chance to go all the way this time.
“It all depends on the weather conditions and if the tracks are slow and dry, it will obviously help the spinners. But English weather is so unpredictable that you get a week of rain and you have green tracks. That is why I do like the Indian attack as they have got variety. They got good pace bowlers and spinners who can perform in any condition.
“It is hard to say what the conditions are going to be like, but I think the best performing team will be winning the World Cup and not ones who will wait for the perfect conditions. India and England are the two favourites and quite rightly so because of their performance,” he said.
The talks about the favourites doesn’t end there as Lara feels that one can never discount defending champions Australia, especially with Steve Smith and David Warner back in their ranks. The legend also believes that this West Indies team is one that has the potential to go the distance and surprise quite a few.
“Definitely Australians are a formidable side and with Smith and Warner coming back into the fold after having a good IPL season will strengthen the Australians. They are playing good cricket, they beat India in India. They will not be pushovers. They will have to do some good work, but you never rule them out as they are one of the best performing teams over the years when it comes to the showpiece event. They are running into form and I think they are up for it, although India and England are still very strong on paper.
“West Indies always has had talent and I think the young cricketers in the West Indies are one of the most talented. What has been the problem is harnessing that talent and when you do get to the international stage, performing. For me, that has been the problem and not lack of talent. Team spirit and unity will play a strong part as you have a couple of players who might be playing their last World Cup and may want to prove a point.
“But the West Indies have not been very consistent in their performances and I believe if they are to go far, they may enter the semis as the third or fourth team and then they can go on to win as on their day they can beat any team. But this format calls for consistency and we may struggle to provide that. But if we do get into the knockouts, everyone will be wary,” he said.
(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at [email protected])