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‘Virat’s greatest strength is that he doesn’t have a weakness’

Dhoni’s talent being wasted down the order: Sidhu
Navjot Singh Sidhu

Dhaka: The colourful Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer-turned-commentator-and-politician (he’s the BJP’s outgoing MP from Amritsar), spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Sunday.

Excerpts...

On what it takes to succeed in T20s

Skill, not strength... The impression that you need to be physically strong isn’t quite correct. The 50-over game is predictable, not the T20s... You need skill to make things unpredictable. I don’t wish to make a light comment, but the one thing that’s predictable about T20s is its unpredictability. This format has definitely thrown up challenges... For captains, batsmen and bowlers... If you’re short on skill, you can’t cope up.

Best approach...

Being fearless.

Future of T20...

In politics, the voice of the people is the voice of God... Today, in cricket, T20 is the voice of the people... It’s going to grow, push the boundaries of cricket... Involve a lot more people and countries.

His top-five (in order of preference) T20 players...

AB de Villiers (SA): AB gives a sense of trust... His team believes in him... People expect him to deliver... You know, if I had to bank on somebody to save my life, in the T20 format, I’d go for AB... He’s that special... I say that because he’s changed the way we look at batsmen in T20s, the way he improvises is incredible... I’ve seen him execute a switch-hit where he ended up hooking a bouncer like a left-hander... The bubble gum popped out of my mouth... AB has the ability to make even good balls disappear over the boundary. Also, look at the way AB goes about the job of ’keeping or being out in the field... Can we forget the catch he took (Yuvraj Singh’s) in the semi-final? AB’s become a T20 institution.

Chris Gayle (WI): When I began playing, it was considered good if a team scored 250 for the loss of a few wickets in an entire day’s play of Test cricket... It used to be tuk-tuk cricket... Khade rehna used to be the mantra. But that even my chowkidar could do! How times have changed... Last year, Gayle scored 175 not out (for RCB against Pune Warriors India) in an IPL game... 175 from one man in a T20 encounter! It’s difficult believing, but Gayle has done it... He’s raised the bar... Now, could a team score 300? Maybe... To be an achiever, you have to be a believer... Gayle has that belief and he’s smashed barriers. In T20s, the impact batsmen don’t score at a run a ball, but have a strike-rate of at least 150... Gayle can push that past 200, instilling fear in the minds of the opposition. What a game-changer!

Virat Kohli (India): Virat’s the best limited overs batsman I’ve seen in my life... I’m talking both of ODIs and T20s... When I say the best, I do mean better even than Sir Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar... A genius does what he must do and Virat’s been in a league of his own... He equalled Viv’s record of getting to 5,000 ODI runs in 114 innings, but did you notice the 100s column? Viv had eight, Virat 17! Virat’s only 25 and has 10 years ahead of him... He’s a great situational player and what separates him from the rest is his attitude... The distance from earth to heaven isn’t a matter of altitude, but attitude... Virat has the attitude of a champion. He epitomises what we call the ‘gire to bhi taang upar’ attitude... Boss, he’s one of a kind... Even if he isn’t doing well, his attitude doesn’t change... Virat wears the fighting spirit like an ornament. See his record, he gets better when India’s chasing, when there’s much more pressure. Pressure enhances Virat’s performance. That’s greatness. Character isn’t made in a crisis, it’s exhibited in a crisis and we saw that two evenings ago, in the semi-final (against South Africa). The proverbial baton is in such good hands... From Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin to Virat. I’d say he’s the master of all trades and the jack of none. You have two-in-ones and three-in-ones, but he’s one-in-one. Virat’s greatest strength is that he doesn’t have a weakness.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India): Dhoni’s the best finisher and I see no reason why he doesn’t bat at No. 3 or No. 4, with Virat opening the innings in ODIs and T20s... Dhoni’s talent is being wasted down the order... You rate ability on the strength of what is achieved, how it’s achieved... Dhoni’s there to complete the finishing act. His USP is his mind... A mind is like a parachute, it won’t function unless it’s open. Dhoni’s mind is open and his temperament is as cool as ice... Often, he gives the impression as if he’s meditating like a monk... He’s that serene, even if the park is seeing mayhem. Dhoni knows what he wants and knows how to get it. He has the means to reach all goals. He certainly has.

Dale Steyn (SA): I have to pick a bowler and Steyn’s the one who has it all... In fact, the only one quick I can recall who could swing it at his pace was Malcolm Marshall, who is no more... Steyn’s good with the new ball, brilliant in the middle overs and outstanding with the old ball... Whatever the format, he’s a complete fast bowler. Indeed, Steyn’s the Virat Kohli of bowling... When the ball swings and seams at such pace, then it’s big trouble for all except the most accomplished batsmen... He bowls coming so close to the stumps that the batsmen have to play five of the six deliveries in every over. Steyn’s like Sir Richard Hadlee and Glenn McGrath.

Somebody who has missed out...

This is a tough one... Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, perhaps.

The World T20 final is later in the day... Favourites?

India... It’s 75-25 in our favour, that’s my reading.

Finally, if he’ll resume campaigning back home straightaway...

(Passionately) Of course... I’ll begin in New Delhi and, then, go to UP... To Varanasi, for Mr Narendra Modi... To Lucknow, for Mr Rajnath Singh... Other parts of UP, too... The schedule is being readied. As I’ve told you, I’m a sipahi of the BJP and follow orders. India wants a change, it’s crying out for just that... I’m doing my bit to bring the BJP back to power.