Hayden: Players like Tilak Varma can put pressure on Suryakumar Yadav

Former Australia opener says it’s a “good strategy” to have “outliers” in the squad that can keep the other players “honest”

Sruthi Ravindranath

21-Aug-2023 • 12 hrs ago

Moody: Tilak’s selection is down to his temperament

Matthew Hayden believes Tilak Varma’s inclusion in India’s squad for the men’s Asia Cup is a “good strategy” as it would put pressure on Suryakumar Yadav and keep the rest of the frontline batters in the side “honest”.

“We’ve seen the class of Tilak Varma. I think it’s a good strategy in terms of not just this World Cup but even potentially getting into the next World Cup as well,” Hayden said on the sidelines of the CEAT Cricket Rating Awards ceremony in Mumbai. “The great thing about India is it’s got a really solid one-two-three combination. Similar to Australia actually, when you look at their last four or five months, they’ve had a really good and strong – what we like to call – the engine room. And then they’ve got some good problems to solve through the middle order.

“And if they can fill spots with talented young players like Tilak Varma, put pressure on someone like Suryakumar Yadav, I think that’s a good strategy. Keep everyone honest in the side and performing. So not a bad move. I think it’s a great side.”

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  • Rohit wants India to be flexible, in mind and batting order

Tilak, who hasn’t played an ODI yet, was included on the back of his promising performances during the T20I series in the Caribbean. Hayden said the emergence of such young talents is one of the positives to come out of injuries to various senior players in the Indian side. Jasprit Bumrah, India’s No. 1 bowler, has just returned from a 11-month hiatus and has been named in the 17-member squad. Ditto with KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, who have missed the last few months because of injuries too.

“In the landscape of modern cricket now, you’re going to get injuries,” Hayden said. “We’ve seen that with Jasprit Bumrah and we’ve seen the emergence of players in and around him that have had an opportunity because he hasn’t been playing. They look at their bench strength as much as they look at their playing make-up because ultimately you’re going to be challenged.

“When I look back at the World Cup campaigns that I was a part of, I remember [Shane] Warne was out with a drug-related incident [in 2003] and then [Brad] Hogg comes into the side and has an unbelievable series in South Africa. So as much as we’d love to see superstars feature in World Cups, the outliers tend to be those players that might win you a World Cup. It might be Ishan Kishan, for example. He might have an unbelievable World Cup and blast everyone away. The selectors don’t write their names down first, but they have something special and they can deliver it on a World Cup stage.”

There are some key questions for India heading into the 50-over World Cup at home this year: who will be their No. 4? What will their middle order look like? While captain Rohit Sharma said he wanted to keep the batting order flexible, Hayden said the Asia Cup would give India a chance to fine-tune their plans and possibly find answers they need.

“The Asia Cup is kind of where you’re going to see a lot more answers to those questions,” Hayden said. “Playing in their home conditions, in the build-up to the World Cup – the World Cup’s on our doorstep – that’s about as good as you get from the subcontinent teams, playing in Sri Lanka, in Pakistan, ahead of an enormous campaign here in India. There’s no question that you’re going to have bench players playing in this World Cup. Your outliers are as important as your key players. And it’s in your favour.

“But we all know how much everyone loves cricket here as well. To be at home, there’s an enormous pressure that will come with that. But I think that you’ve got good lead up time and good preparation.”

Matthew HaydenIndiaAsia Cup

Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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