‘Ben Stokes a more complete cricketer than Hardik Pandya’: Lance Klusener on the sidelines of Legends League Cricket
Hindustan Times caught up with Lance Klusener, who is currently the batting coach of Zimbabwe, on the sidelines of Legends League Cricket. The former all-rounder talked about Hardik Pandya's progress as an all-rounder, his thoughts on current India vs South Africa T20I series and the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Lance Klusener, who still holds the best figures by a South African on Test debut - 8 for 64 against India in 1996 - later on made a name for himself as one of the feared ball-strikers in ODI cricket. Klusener's exploits with the bat in the 1999 ODI World Cup often overshadow the fact that he had also taken 19 wickets in the tournament. Hindustan Times caught up with Klusener, who is currently the batting coach of Zimbabwe, on the sidelines of the Legends League Cricket. Zulu talked about Hardik Pandya's progress as an all-rounder, Dinesh Karthik's role as a finisher, his thoughts on the ongoing India vs South Africa T20I series and the upcoming T20 World Cup and much more.
Here are the excerpts:
These will be the last two matches for both India and South Africa before they head to the T20 World Cup. How do you see this series panning out?
Lance Kluserner: It's gonna be a little closer than what we all think. India in their backyard at full strength, are always going to be a handful. There will be eyes on a couple of key performers. I think from the South African point of view... a guy like Temba Bavuma I think there will be a lot of eyes on him especially because he is coming back from an injury. There are always eyes on Virat Kohli, what he does, and how he performs. I think possibly how the Indian bowlers are gonna go as well against the South African batters, especially at the death. Do they have the right combination? However, I don't see the result of these matches affecting any of these two teams negatively in the World Cup.
Hardik Pandya has developed into a match-winner for India in white-ball cricket. What is your assessment of him?
Lance Klusener: It's a good question. I think the questions around Pandya are not too much on his batting. It is about his bowling. Can he consistently bowl his full quota in all forms of the game? His batting is right up there with the best in the world.
Would you put him in the same bracket as Ben Stokes?
Lance Klusener: I think Stokes is a li'll bit more complete than a guy like Pandya. But he's learning all the time. In the last two-three years, the strides that Pandya has taken in international cricket are awesome. I don't think he's quite the finished product yet. The sooner he gets to that (stage) where he's completing all his overs all the time, I think we can definitely put him in the same bracket as all great all-rounders. He is up there but not quite at the top now.
Another current player you might relate to is Dinesh Karthik because of the specific role of a finisher he is playing, can he change the course of the game by just batting two overs?
Lance Klusener: Yes, definitely he can make a difference in the last couple of overs. We've seen it countless times. I think MS Dhoni has left a big hole which has forced the selectors to find something different and you know Dinesh has done that extremely well. He has played the role of the finisher (quite well). When I used to play, it didn't really matter what number I was batting at. It was more about getting the right players batting at the right time. DK has shown a hunger to finish games. That has been recognised by Indian cricket. I used to go out there in between overs 35-40. Didn't really matter whether we were one down or six down. I would just slide in at the right time. You will find the same thing with DK.
India captain Rohit Sharma has sort of taken it upon himself to be the aggressor in the powerplay and play high-risk shots of late. Your thoughts?
Lance Klusener: He is taking advantage of whatever the fielding restrictions are. If he really has been asked to play differently, it is a bit of a gamble. I think Rohit has been doing fantastically well anyway... He does not need to chase the game. Maybe there's somebody else who can play that role. Rohit is too valuable to be doing anything differently from what he has been doing over the last so many years.
Who would you pick as the favourite to win the T20 World Cup?
Lance Klusener: Australia in their backyard are got to be the favourites. And then there are I guess about five teams (who can pose a challenge). South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and England. If they find good performances and consistency over those three weeks then they are right up there. But it's a tough one to call. I think these six teams will have equal chances.
How does it feel to be back on the cricket field again?
Lance Klusener: It's nice to be back on the field, nice to be back in India, always enjoyed my time here. The way cricket has been supported, it's always fantastic to be back here. Hopefully, the remaining days can be as entertaining as it has been for all of us.
Your thoughts on the format and the idea of Legends League Cricket?
Lance Klusener: Does it need to be T10? I don't know but that's the question that we can ask. But the beauty is probably to allow the older generation of cricket followers like your mom and dad to come back to the ground to share that experience again and watch those players who they used to admire and then share the details with the younger generation. It's a fantastic idea. It encourages us players to stay fit too.
How is the experience of playing under Harbhajan Singh?
Lance Klusener: It's great to see Bhajji again. To play under him is superb. I had the privilege of coaching him at Mumbai Indians as well. We go back a long time. He's a fantastic competitor. I don't think his bowling has deteriorated at all. He is just a treasure for India. Just wish him well. Not just him, there are other players in the team against whom I have had a run-in during my time, so it's great to have them on my side for a change.