KOLKATA: Former Indian cricketer Manoj Tiwary feels that the absence of Naseem Shah is a key factor behind Pakistan’s struggle with the ball in the ICC Cricket World Cup in India.
In an exclusive interview with Geo News, the former Indian cricketer, who played 12 ODIs and two T20Is for India between 2008 and 2015, provided candid and thought-provoking views on Pakistan’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential to reach the top four in the tournament.
When asked about Pakistan’s performance in the World Cup, Tiwary expressed his disappointment at their inability to perform up to their potential saying that Pakistan is a quality side, especially in knockout matches, and as an Indian, he wouldn’t want to face them in such situations.
“They can beat any team. However, it’s disheartening to see them making basic mistakes. They are inconsistent, and it’s challenging to predict their performance.”
Tiwary pointed out that “the absence of Naseem Shah proved to be very costly for Pakistan.”
“Naseem Shah’s absence is a significant loss for Pakistan. His bowling length is better than other bowlers, and he can control the game. Shaheen Afridi is facing challenges due to the unsuitable length for Indian conditions,” he said.
The former Indian batter, who is now minister for Sports in West Bengal, said that Babar Azam could be a more proactive captain, adapting to the match situation.
“I feel that Babar could have done better as captain, he needs to be proactive and think one step ahead, for example how he continued with Shadab’s bowling example despite seeing that he was struggling to find his rhythm.”
“I think it is better to remove the struggling bowler if he is not able to deliver properly. It is important to have a proactive captain, Babar needs to think out of the box. He should be prepared to modify his plans according to the match situation. At times you need to go against your initial plans when the situation on the field is different.”
“Give the same Pakistan team under the leadership of MS Dhoni, I challenge that this team will be on a winning streak.” Manoj Tiwary added.
However, commenting on Babar Azam’s skills as a batsman, Tiwary acknowledged his “talent and consistent run-scoring”.
“Babar is a great player under immense pressure. Blaming him alone for Pakistan’s results is unfair. He has the skills to be among the legends like Sachin Tendulkar or Rohit Sharma. He is undoubtedly Pakistan’s top batsman of this era,” he said.
Tiwary praised the rise of the Indian bowling attack and attributed it to extensive coaching and knowledge of biomechanics.
He emphasised the importance of aggression in fast bowling and suggested including Shardul Thakur in the playing XI for the knockout stages to cover the potential struggles of bowlers.
When asked about the possibility of a bilateral series between Pakistan and India, Tiwary expressed skepticism, stating: “I don’t see it happening unless there is a change in the current government in India. There are political factors that need to be addressed for such a series to take place.”
“As a cricketer, I would love to see Pakistan playing India but there are a few things that need to be sorted out at the government-to-government level. I have played IPL initially with Pakistan players and we enjoyed good bonding with them. There may be people who wouldn’t want India-Pakistan cricket to happen, but I am sure genuine cricket lovers would love this,” he added.
Regarding Pakistan’s chances of reaching the top four in the World Cup, Tiwary remained optimistic and said: “Nothing is impossible, and it depends on the results of other teams. If Pakistan reach the top four, it will add excitement to the World Cup, with the potential of a historic semifinal match against India.”