Hardik might do something really special in this World Cup: Yuvraj Singh

Pandya was named as the vice-captain of the World Cup-bound team despite concerns over his form during the Indian Premier League, where his team — Mumbai Indians finished at the rock bottom of the points table.

Hardik might do something really special in this World Cup: Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj Singh (Photo: IANS )

Throwing his weight behind the Ajit Agarkar-led BCCI selection committee’s decision to include out-of-form and injury-prone Hardik Pandya in India’s T20 World Cup squad, two-time World Cup winning India star Yuvraj Singh exuded confidence on Baroda all-rounder to deliver something extraordinary at the tournament.

Pandya was named as the vice-captain of the World Cup-bound team despite concerns over his form during the Indian Premier League, where his team — Mumbai Indians finished at the rock bottom of the points table.

Although Pandya has shown signs of regaining his bowling form during the IPL, his batting performances have been below par, having scored only 216 runs in 14 matches. The slump follows his return from a prolonged injury layoff dating back to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.


However, Yuvraj remains optimistic about the all-rounder’s impact at the marque tournament in the USA and the West Indies, starting June 1.

“Well, the good thing is that the selection has been made. (Selectors see) how players have performed at international cricket and then they look at IPL form. Just not the IPL form,” Yuvraj noted.

“Because if you look at the IPL form, Hardik’s not done well. Looking at his background for India, what he’s done for India, it is important that he’s in the squad. I think his bowling is going to be important, and his fitness is going to be important. And I think he might do something really special in this World Cup,” he added.

Yuvraj, who was earlier named the Brand Ambassador of the forthcoming ICC T20 World Cup, has laid special emphasis on the left-right combination in the batting line-up when he was asked to pick India’s possible XI, starting with the top order which didn’t have too many surprises.

“I think Rohit (Sharma) and (Yashasvi) Jaiswal should definitely open. Virat (Kohli) has been batting at No.3 and that’s his position. And then you get Surya (Yadav) at four, and then you got a couple of big options,” Yuvraj said.

“I’d like to see a couple of left-hand, right-hand combinations because it is harder to bowl at two combinations all the time.”

Sticking to his preference of a left-right combination, Yuvraj has leaned towards Rishabh Pant over Sanju Samson for the vital wicketkeeper’s role. Both the wicketkeeper-batters have been in sensational form in the ongoing season of the Indian Premier League.

Samson has not only shouldered the responsibility of captaincy but has also played a pivotal role in the batting order for the Rajasthan Royals this year. He currently ranks seventh in the list of leading run-scorers this season, amassing 504 runs in 14 matches at an impressive strike rate of 156.32 while guiding his team to eight wins and a spot in the playoffs.

On the other hand, Pant made a remarkable comeback after recovering from a near-fatal car accident that sidelined him for 14 months. Despite a quiet start to the season, the 26-year-old swiftly shook off the rust to accumulate 446 runs in 13 matches at a strike rate of 155.40.

“I’d probably go for Rishabh. Obviously Sanju is also in great form, but Rishabh (is a) left-hander, and I believe that Rishabh has massive potential to win games for India, which he has done in the past,” Yuvraj said.

“Lot more in Test cricket, and he’s someone who I feel can be a match-winner on the big stage,” he added.

Prior to India’s squad selection, Yuvraj had favoured Shivam Dube to secure a spot in the squad after impressive performances in the IPL. Dube scored 396 runs in 14 matches for the Chennai Super Kings while striking at 162.29. Though initially featuring only as a batter, he bowled his right-arm medium pace against Punjab Kings, giving India another bowling option at the T20 World Cup.

“I think with Shivam Dube, the last T20 series he played for India, I think he did well. And he’s been very consistent in the IPL as well. I just felt the kind of form he’s in, it was important for him to be in the squad. I really think he can make a huge difference in the middle order or the lower middle order, so it’s good to see him in the Indian T20 squad,” Yuvraj noted.

Yuvraj was pleased to see leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal in the squad, marking his return to T20I cricket for the first time since August 2023, after which he missed the home ODI World Cup and four bilateral T20I series.

However, his recent IPL performances – where he has picked up 14 wickets in 11 matches and also became the first-ever player to take 200 wickets in the tournament history – have paved the way for a remarkable comeback.

“It was nice to see Yuzvendra Chahal in the squad, because he’s been bowling really well. And in the second half of the World Cup, you might have wickets slowing down so it’s good to keep some spin bowling options,” Yuvraj said.

“We have Jasprit (Bumrah), (Mohammed) Siraj, we have the experience with Arshdeep (Singh) as well. So it looks like a really strong side but we have to prove it,” he added.

Rinku, Shubman unfortunate to miss WC

Having been relegated to the reserve list, Rinku Singh and Shubman Gill were the casualties in the squad but Yuvraj felt that’s the nature of selecting a World Cup squad with a few in-form players missing the cut.

“It was hard to, if you look at the guys, it was a hard squad to make, and unfortunately a couple of really good guys missed out but that’s just the nature of selecting the World Cup squad I guess,” he said.

“It was a bit unfortunate for Shubman Gill and Rinku Singh. If I talk about Rinku, obviously he has been in good form for India and he has done so well for KKR. And I see a lot of improvement in his batting in the last couple of years.

“Unfortunate for him and Shubman obviously, scoring tons of runs, from last year someone who has scored the most number of hundreds for India. From the last two years, and to miss out, as I said that’s the nature of selecting a World Cup squad and I’m sure these guys will be the first ones whenever there’s an opportunity,” he added.