Former chairman of the national selection committee MSK Prasad said that it would be important for senior batters to score well if Team India is to win the final of the ICC World Test Championship against Australia, which will be played at The Oval from June 7 onwards.
He also said that excessive pressure should not be placed on the shoulders of young rising batter Shubman Gill despite him being in the "form of his life."
In an interview with ANI, Prasad who is the former chairman of the national selection committee talked about India's chances in the WTC Final, the form of stars like Virat Kohli, skipper Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara ahead of the mega event and the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane for the one-off Test match etc.
On India's World Test Championship chances, Prasad said, "Our bowling is great, with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj in great form. So are Ashwin and Jadeja. The batters will have to adjust as they are making a transition from white ball to red ball cricket. The time is also less. It is not happening for the first time. The senior batters like Rohit, Rahane, Pujara and Virat will have to deliver. You cannot put so much pressure on youngsters like Shubman Gill. If the seniors deliver and run the show, the youngsters will follow them as well."
Prasad dismissed that Rohit's form in IPL 2023 is a matter of concern for Team India, saying that his IPL before the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup was not very good either but he went on to score five centuries in the World Cup.
"Before 2019 WC, Rohit did not have a very good IPL. But when he went to England, he scored five centuries. He has that experience and seniority. He has performed well in ODIs and Tests though he has not had a very good IPL for a while. He will come good in the WTC final and I expect him to give us a good start," said the former chief selector.
Rohit is having a disappointing IPL season so far. He has scored just 324 runs in 15 matches at an average of 21.60 and a strike rate of 133.33. This also includes two half-centuries and six single-digit scores.
However, he has had a great 2023 so far in international cricket. In 12 matches, he has scored 613 runs at an average of 43.78 and a strike rate of over 80. He has two centuries and two fifties this year, with best score of 120.
Prasad believes that Virat will excel and do well in the WTC final given his new-found clarity and rhythm after Asia Cup 2022.
"He did not have a very great 2021-22. But that is because we expect a lot from him. He has to score 100 in every match, otherwise, it is a failure. But he is a human. The captaincy pressure had him struggling for a while, but once he got back his rhythm and clarity, he did not look back. He has been in amazing form since last year's Asia Cup, and has made hundreds in all formats. He must be having it in his mind that India has not won an ICC tournament in years and must be fired up to give his best to help India win. With his form, state of mind in a good place and his seniority being above 100 Tests, I am sure he will deliver in the WTC final."
Virat has been in fine touch since Asia Cup 2022 last year. He has scored centuries in Tests, ODIs, T20Is and IPL since then. In September last year, he ended his three-year-long century drought. In international cricket in 2022, he has scored 724 runs so far in 13 matches, 15 innings at an average of 51.71. He has scored three centuries and a half-century, with the best score of 186.
Virat had a great IPL 2023 season, in 14 matches of IPL 2023, he has scored 639 runs at an average of 53.25 and a strike rate above 139. He has scored two centuries and six fifties this season, with best score of 101*. He is the third-highest run-scorer in the league so far.
Prasad said that Pujara's brilliant run of form in the County Championship for Sussex this year is good for him and the Indian team.
"His form in County Championship is great news for Team India. He is practicing in English conditions and getting to know it. His strength is to occupy the crease as much as possible and hold an end steady after some quick wickets. I am sure his runs will not go to waste," said the former selector.
Pujara is currently the highest run-scorer in Division Two of the Championship, having scored 545 runs in eight innings at an average of above 68, with three centuries and a fifty. His best score is 151 across five matches.
Pujara was in fine form for Sussex last year as well. In eight matches last year in the Championship, he scored 1,094 runs at an average of 109.40. He scored five half-centuries last year, with the best score of 231.
He was the fourth-highest run-scorer in the division behind Wayne Madsen (1,273 for Derbyshire), Haseeb Hameed (1,235 for Nottinghamshire) and Sam Northeast (1,189 for Glamorgan).
Pujara also performed really well in the One-Day Cup last year. In nine matches, he scored 624 runs at an average of 89.14 and a strike rate of 111.62. He scored three centuries and two half-centuries and the best score of 174. He led his side to the semi-final of the tournament as a skipper.
Prasad also backed Rahane's return to the side for the mega Test, saying that youngsters like Sarfaraz Khan will have to wait for their chances despite scoring big in domestic cricket since experience matters in such big matches.
"It is good that new players are coming up. But Rahane is a proven player for India in overseas conditions, he has centuries in England and Australia. He won a series in Australia as a captain. For such mega events, you need experience. It is not only about your runs, but how you handle pressure and play your innings. Sarfaraz will have to wait for his chances. I am sure he will get his chances if he continues it for a year or so. There are so many players who scored many runs in domestic cricket like Subramanian Badrinath, Amol Muzumdar etc, but had to wait for their chances," said Prasad.
Rahane has a decent record in England across all formats, having scored 1,148 runs in 26 matches, 40 innings at an average of 29.43. He has two centuries and seven fifties in English conditions, with the best score of 106. In Tests in England, he has scored 729 runs in 15 matches, 29 innings at an average of 26.03, with a century and five fifties.
Rahane last featured in Tests for India in January 2022 and has since been out of favour in the red-ball setup. Before being dropped, Rahane had a horrendous 2021 where he scored just 479 runs in 13 Tests at an average of 20.82. His last Test century came at the MCG in the memorable Border-Gavaskar series of 2020/21 where he captained India's comeback after the dismal 36 all out.
Injury to Shreyas Iyer meant that there was a void to be filled in the middle order and India has backed his experience for the one-off Ultimate Test.
His performances in the Indian Premier League so far as well as his domestic showings have paved the way for a comeback into the side.
Playing for Chennai Super Kings, Rahane has been handed a new lease of life, scoring 299 runs in ten innings at a stunning strike rate of 169.88. He has scored two half-centuries for the side so far.
Prior to the IPL, he went back to the drawing board in Ranji Trophy and returned 634 runs in seven matches for Mumbai, which included two centuries.
On the young Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 talent that impressed him this year, Prasad named Yashasvi Jaiswal (625 runs in 14 matches at an average of 48.07 with a century and five fifties), Rinku Singh (474 runs in 14 matches at an average of 59.25 with four fifties), Dhruv Jurel (152 runs in 11 innings at an average of 21.71, with a strike rate of over 172), Jitesh Sharma (309 runs in 14 matches at an average of 23.76 and a strike rate of 156.06) and Shivam Dube (386 runs in 13 innings at an average of 35.09 and a strike rate of 158.84 with three fifties) as some of the standouts who can play for India soon.
MSK Prasad is an expert on Star Sports Telugu for the ongoing IPL 2023. (ANI)