He was known as one of the best leg-spinners in the business during his playing days and while Mushtaq Ahmed has turned to coaching after retirement, he knows what it takes to be a part of India-Pakistan games in the World Cup. Having played against India in the 1992 and 1996 World Cup, the Deccan Gladiators head coach believes it will be all about temperament when the two teams clash in the T20 World Cup on Sunday.
Speaking to ANI, Mushtaq said more than talent, it will be the temperament of players that will be tested when the arch-rivals clash at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
"What is important in the World Cup is temperament and the team which has the belief will have a better chance. Stats are in favour of India but if the Pakistan players keep this in mind and play, the chances will go down. The balance with Shoaib (Malik) and (Mohammad) Hafeez coming back will give them a lot of confidence as these pitches need experienced players. India obviously is one of the best teams but this game is about temperament," he said.
Having picked five wickets in two World Cup encounters against India (three in 1992 and two in 1996), Mushtaq did rise to the challenge against quality Indian batsmen. And the player turned coach feels strategizing will be important when it comes to attacking two of India's best batsmen in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
"Rohit takes his time and is smart and I feel an inswing bowler can be effective against him at the beginning of his innings. It creates a bit of a problem for him. Also, bouncers can work on slow wickets as he is a compulsive puller so that can work if you set the field well."
"For Kohli, I believe you have to play with the field setting. It is white-ball cricket so you won't have much swing. But the key will be to make him earn the first 10-15 runs by keeping the fielding tight. In that case, he will try to hit over the fielders and that can create chances," he explained.
While Rohit and Kohli are conventional cricketers, someone like a Rishabh Pant can change the complexion of a game with his unorthodox style. But Mushtaq wants the Pakistan bowlers to play with the field when bowling to Pant.
"Looking into the stats, whoever is more successful against Pant, such bowlers should be handed the ball against him. With players like Pant, you need to play with the field more than the bowlers. If you are tactically smart with the field settings, you can change his approach. Of course, he is very aggressive and dangerous, but you must plan well against such players," he pointed.
While the Indian team looks solid on paper, the absence of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has raised quite a few eyebrows and Mushtaq feels the team could end up missing his services, especially after his brilliant show in the recently concluded IPL in UAE.
"Chahal has been bowling beautifully for India for the last couple of years so they will definitely miss his experience. But I think maybe they have considered his form or the conditions and made the call, I don't know. A mature wrist spinner is always handy and I feel they will miss him during the course of the tournament," the Deccan Gladiators coach signed off
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