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India vs Zimbabwe: Mohammad Kaif backs Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill to open batting for Team India

New Delhi, Aug 17: Former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif believes Team India's playing eleven in the ODI series against Zimbabwe might give a peek at the team management's future plans. India has sent a relatively younger ODI side for the tour Down Under under the leadership of KL Rahul and Kaif reckons the team's opening combination might reflect captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid's future plans.

While interacting during a group call with select media organised by Sony Sports Network, Kaif, while responding to MyKhel's question about Team India's opening combination on the tour, said acting coach VVS Laxman must have already discussed with regular skipper Rohit and coach Dravid about who should open the batting in Zimbabwe.

Kaif also opined that the hosts will be tested by the young India pace battery comprising Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, and Mohammed Siraj.

Kaif backs Gill-Dhawan to open

Kaif backs Gill-Dhawan to open

When asked what according to him should be Team India's opening combination in Zimbabwe as there are two options available in Shikhar Dhawan-Shubman Gill and Dhawan and KL Rahul, Kaif said, "It will be a tough call but there must be a plan definitely. Even though VVS Laxman has travelled with the team as the acting coach but there must have been a conversation between him and head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma about their future plans. I am sure there must be a plan, and we'll get to know when the playing eleven is announced. Yes, it won't be an easy call to decide the opening combination because Shubman Gill has had a good run in the West Indies. He's shown a lot of promise. Shikhar has been doing it consistently and KL Rahul we all know what a quality batter he is. But it will be interesting to see at which position Rahul bats, he's opened for India and also batted at number five. So, it will be interesting to see where he bats but to me, the opening combination of Gill and Dhawan looks good and they should get a longer run."

On India's pace attack

On India's pace attack

While speaking on India's pace attack on the tour as all of them haven't played many ODI games, Kaif said they have a lot of potential and have been winning matches, hence it won't be easy for Zimbabwe to get past these young guns.

"They might be inexperienced but they've been putting up dominating performances whenever they got a chance. You look at Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Siraj, and Prasidh Krishna. They have all done exceedingly well (in the matches they've played) and won games for their teams. So, it won't be easy for this Zimbabwe side to tackle these young guns. Also, if you compare the current Zimbabwe team with the one which we used to face back in 2002-2003, it is very weak. The Zimbabwe side of the early 2000s was very strong and I don't think the current team should pose much of a threat to this Indian team which looks very balanced. But you can't get complacent," the former India batter added further.

On Deepak Chahar's comeback

On Deepak Chahar's comeback

When asked about pacer Deepak Chahar's role in this series, for he is making his comeback after an injury layoff, Kaif said the Rajasthan all-rounder needs to get some match time to find his rhythm.

"He'll get the match time in this series. He's making a comeback after a long gap due to injury so he needs to get on the pitch and perform. He has the wicket-taking ability and I hope he gets to play more matches because once you are out of action due to injuries, doubts creep into your mind. So all he needs is some game time. He was missed by Indian team and Chennai Super Kings. I am looking forward to seeing him in action," Kaif added further.

'Dhawan a quality cricketer'

'Dhawan a quality cricketer'

When asked about the role of senior India batter Shikhar Dhawan on the tour, Kaif said, "Dhawan has a lot of cricket left in him, he's a quality cricketer. It surprises me to see him restricted to just one format on the national side. I believe he's a far better player and can definitely contribute in the other formats too if he gets a chance. But hat's off to him. He has delivered whenever he got a chance and if you talk about one-day cricket then for me Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Shikhar Dhawan - these three have done it for Team India time and again and are proven match-winners."

On Dhawan's sacking as captain after his appointment

On Dhawan's sacking as captain after his appointment

KL Rahul replaced Dhawan as the captain of the side on the Zimbabwe tour, despite the latter getting appointed as the skipper, when asked about this Kaif claimed the entire episode didn't look good and could have been avoided had it been dealt with maturity.

"It could have been avoided. Since the team was announced and Dhawan was appointed the captain of the side for the tour it wouldn't have really mattered if KL Rahul had played under Dhawan. All Lokesh Rahul needs is some match time to find his rhythm as he is making a comeback. In the post-COVID-19 era we have seen players getting picked up as net bowlers and making their debuts so these are changing times and players are also getting used to surprises (like these). Had there been proper communication between the physio, selectors, and team management, things could have been handled differently because you have to also understand the fact that Shikhar isn't a youngster he's a senior member of the squad. However, he's a team player and possesses a king's heart and he wouldn't mind it but it doesn't look good on Shikhar," Kaif added.

Eyes on Chahar, Hooda

Eyes on Chahar, Hooda

When asked about the players who could be in contention for the T20 World Cup berth if they do well in Zimbabwe, Kaif said, "Deepak Chahar could be in contention for he has done well. He's a quality pacer and a wicket-taking bowler and he could also bat lower down the order. Then there's Deepak Hooda for he has grabbed the chances and performed well. Hooda has performed with the bat and can also bowl off-spin. So he could be the sixth bowling option for the skipper in Australia. In the West Indies, we saw him bowling in the powerplays as well. Kuldeep Yadav has come down in the pecking order as Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel have done well."

On Sanju Samson

On Sanju Samson

When asked if dropping Sanju Samson from the Asia Cup squad but picking him up for the Zimbabwe tour was justified, the Uttar Pradesh cricketer said, "There are already a few wicketkeeping options in the team. There's Rishabh Pant and then there's Dinesh Karthik. There are several players in the top and middle order and there is stiff competition for almost every spot. You have Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, and KL Rahul who are vying for a spot. Suryakumar looks to retain his spot at number four, then we have Pant at five and Hardik Pandya at number six. Then there's Dinesh Karthik at number seven and we are still not sure whether he'll be able to secure a spot in the playing eleven. For any player to remain in the reckoning it is important to play match-winning knocks and the biggest example in front of us is that of Karthik. He's been in and out of the squad so many times but he never gave up and kept performing and kept knocking at the selectors' doors. Samson has to keep performing and play those match-winning knocks and remain in the eyes of the selectors."

On Shahbaz Ahmed

On Shahbaz Ahmed

When asked how he sees the selection of Shahbaz Ahmed as Washington Sundar's replacement, Kaif said, "He can get a chance to make his debut in Zimbabwe. But there is already an all-rounder in Axar Patel in the side who is doing exceedingly well. Had there been Washington Sundar he would have got a spot in the playing eleven because he bowls off-spin and brings variety. But it won't be easy for Shahbaz (to get his debut cap) and he has been rewarded for the good show in domestic circuit and IPL but Axar is ahead in the race."

Watch the LIVE coverage of India tour of Zimbabwe 2022 on SONY SIX (English), SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) & SONY TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels at 12:45 pm from 18th August 2022.

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Story first published: Wednesday, August 17, 2022, 17:28 [IST]
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