India's hero at the 2011 World Cup believes Hardik Pandya will be the one to watch out for at the 2019 World Cup.
Rediff.com's Harish Kotian listens in.
Yuvraj Singh, who played a stellar role in India's triumph at the 2011 World Cup, expects all-rounder Hardik Pandya to perform a similar role at the 2019 World Cup after his exploits in the ongoing Indian Premier League.
The Mumbai Indians all-rounder has been in rampaging form, smashing 380 runs in 13 games at an amazing strike rate of 198, the second best in the tournament behind Andre Russell (207).
"I was having this conversation with him (Hardik) yesterday (Thursday) where I told him that 'You have a great chance of performing really well with the ball and bat', the kind of form he is in at the moment," Yuvraj said on Friday, May 3, at the launch of Moneygram's marketing campaign for the 2019 World Cup, which seeks the 'blessings' from Indian cricket fans from all over the world for the Men in Blue.
"The way he is batting at the moment, it is phenomenal and I hope he carries that form (into the World Cup)," Yuvi added. "He has been bowling well in patches, but it is all about how you handle the pressure. I just hope Hardik has an awesome tournament, the way he is batting at the moment."
The notable feature of Pandya's batting in the IPL has been the way he has looked to hit the ball straight for big sixes, not looking to slog across the ball across the line.
"It is probably the best shape as a batsman to be in," Yuvi, who also plays for the Mumbai Indians, felt. "I have been watching since the practice games, he was hitting the ball really well. I had told him 'It is going to be a special tournament for you, the way you are hitting the ball'."
"Over the years, as an experienced player, you know if someone is hitting the ball well, he is in great shape. He got 91 from 34 balls against KKR. That is probably the best innings I have seen in the IPL. He hit four quality bowlers he was batting against. When you are doing that, you know that someone is batting very well," added Yuvraj, Man of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup.
India's team selection for the 2019 World Cup was widely debated, especially the exclusion of Ambati Rayudu, who was tipped to bat at the crucial No 4 slot. The selectors preferred all-rounder Vijay Shankar to bat at No 4, given that he could also play a role with the ball in England.
Asked whether not having a defined batsman at No 4 would affect India at the World Cup, Yuvraj replied: "That question you need to ask the selectors, not me. All I can say is that No 4 is a very important position and I am sure they have selected the team thinking about the whole competition."
"We have to find who is batting at No 4. I am sure there are a couple of options, we just have to wait and watch."
The 37 year old picked England and India as his favourites for the World Cup along with Australia.
"Obviously with (David) Warner and (Steve) Smith coming back, Australia will be in contention," Yuvraj said. "The West Indies also looked a very power-packed side. I think it will be India and England first, third would be Australia."
Yuvraj also believes the changed format in the World Cup wherein all the teams play each other with the top four qualifying for the semi-final will be tough.
"I definitely feel it is a tougher format than the previous World Cups. In the previous World Cups, we played the group matches and the knock out," he said, adding, "Just think: You have to play 9 games, get points and qualify for the knock out, it adds to the pressure. It's going to be tough to handle the mental pressure in this format."