Similar to champions Australia at last year’s one-day World Cup, hosts India must deal with raging expectations from home fans to win the World Twenty20 but should thrive in their own conditions, according to former Australia paceman Ryan Harris.
Harris, who retired from all cricket last year, expects the March 8-April 3 tournament to provide plenty of excitement, given most teams will boast players with experience of local pitches having competed in the domestic Indian Premier League.
However, the quality of India’s batsmen would make the hosts very hard to beat and ensure opposing bowlers were in for a rough ride, Harris, who harbours ambitions to coach Australia at international level, told Reuters on Tuesday.
“Having been there and experienced it and watched those guys, they’re unbelievable in those conditions,” said the 36-year-old, who played five IPL tournaments from 2009-13 with the Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab.
“You bowl a good ball and you walk back and think ‘how has that gone there? Exactly where he wanted to put it’. And that’s what you’ve got to accept as a bowler in those conditions, particularly over there,” he added.
“You can’t really target any of their guys. They bat down to seven or eight, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got them all covered.
“It’s a bit like Australia in the World Cup last year. When you’re playing at home, the expectations are obviously quite high.
“They’re going to have billions of people watching it and there’s pressure and all that stuff but you know you’re in your own conditions and there’s no better place to play at. To play India in India will be very, very hard.”
As big tournament hosts, India have hardly struggled in front of home fans and won the 2011 one-day World Cup co-hosted with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
They made the semi-finals of the 1987 tournament co-hosted with Pakistan and the last four in 1996, also co-hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Harris felt another team from South Asia, like Pakistan, would likely provide the biggest challenge to India’s hopes of becoming the first team to win a second World T20, adding to their triumph at the inaugural 2007 tournament in South Africa.
He felt less bullish about his home nation’s chances of winning the only piece of global silverware still to elude them, however.
“The guys only come together a couple of days before a T20 match,” he told Reuters of contests in the format outside the major tournament environment.
“Obviously they play each other and know each other really well, but to get that proper team environment needs more than a couple of days or a couple of matches to get used to the format, know each other and get good at it.”
Harris added that South Africa was also an odd location for a warm-up tour, where Australia are involved in a three-match series currently tied at 1-1.
“Why go to South Africa when we’re going to a totally different place?” he said.
“I heard (captain) Steve Smith’s comments that it would have benefited both sides if they prepared slow, low wickets in South Africa, but they’re not going to do that because people want to see what they saw the other night,” said Harris, referring to Australia’s thrilling five-wicket win in Johannesburg on Sunday.
“I’m unsure why they had to go there. We’re going from bouncy, fast tracks to the slower, lower wickets over there (in India).”