Transition period in an international team is always “difficult to handle” but India has a lot of talent and a potential good leader in Hardik Pandya to get through the phase in T20 cricket smoothly, believes former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara.
India will play six white ball matches against Sri Lanka in the new year with Pandya replacing Rohit Sharma as captain for T20Is from January 3. The squad also lacks KL Rahul and Virat Kohli which is an indicator that Indian cricket will undergo a transition from these series.
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“The transition is inevitable. You always have to be ready. But you need supporting players to get through the system to keep it running smoothly,” Sangakkara told PTI during an interaction hosted by Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the upcoming Sri Lanka tour of India.
“Every squad goes through difficult transitions and we’ve seen that in Australia. Saw that a while back in NZ, even in England. So you have all these sides going through a transition and difficulty is a common theme,” he referred to it common phenomenon.
For the Lankan legend, it is important to give the fresh faces a long rope.
“You have to have confidence in the players you select, trust them over long periods, give them exposure and give them the foundation they need so they can settle into international cricket and understand what it’s all about.”
Especially for Sri Lanka, the transition has been very difficult since people like Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene retired.
“India has a crowd of young players coming through, so it’s about selecting the best among them and giving them a longer run,” noted Sangakkara.
However, he was eloquent about Pandya having seen his captaincy of Gujarat Titans while mentoring for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
“There is no doubt that his leadership is outstanding and we have all seen that in IPL. Now he has to combine that with captaincy on the field at national level.
He has all the qualities to be a leader, although you don’t necessarily have to be a captain to be a leader.” But there are aspects of captaincy for Pandya to consider and Sangakkara handed down a checklist for the Baroda man.
“Now captaincy on the field can be something else. To read moments, win moments and strategize, you have to be sharp, and I think Hardik has all the ingredients to be a good captain.
“The hardest thing is to inspire, talk and manage his players in a group to play with a vision and rest comes with experience, captain in close games,” he added.
As for the new Indian T20 team, Sangakkara would follow Ruturaj Gaikwad and Sanju Samson.
“I like to watch Ruturaj Gaikwad’s batting and he is a player who can hit correctly and still have a huge impact in T20 cricket and of course Sanju Samson because I want Sanju to have a long run in this Indian side.
“Because he is a very special player, so they have a good mix of pace, spin and utility players. It will be a tough challenge for Sri Lanka, but in T20 they have the tools to match them.” The Asian champions in this format are a force to be reckoned with.
“You have skipper Dasun Shanaka, Charith Asalanka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis. They have a top order that allows SL to set big totals.
“A powerhouse mid and late order with skipper Shanaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Wanindu Hasaranga coming in. SL hits deep and we have Mahesh Theeksana and Hasaranga’s spin combo complemented by the raw pace of Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madhusanka.”
Pant needs to work on his maintenance
Rishabh Pant is not part of any white ball matches against Sri Lanka and Sangakkara believes that more than the batting, it is his attitude that warrants improvement.
“I think Rishabh Pant can improve his wicketkeeping quite a bit. A lot of people just focus on his at bat, and it’s the combination of the two that builds confidence.
“I know it’s hard and boring, but he can get really good by focusing on smaller moments and that will help him in white ball cricket, and then he’ll become the goalkeeper he’s expected to be.”
When it comes to hitting, Sangakkara wants him to be wise in his choice of who to attack and when to attack.
“In his batting I have no doubt he’s got all the shots, skill and talent, but it’s about understanding how to build an innings in T20 cricket, knowing which bowlers to attack and being a little smart.” T20
is not just for young people
With its demands, is T20 becoming more of a game where players in their mid-thirties or late thirties become less relevant?
“I never thought it was about age. I’m just looking at skill and I think it’s a game for the most experienced players. Cricket is a game for the most skilled players and those who are the best among the most skilled players will survive on their own.
‘You have to perform. If you don’t, nothing will work. It’s a game for the very skilled, who are quick to be creative and problem-solving,” he concluded.