Jayawardena points out key reasons why India can be confident at T20 World Cup
India named their 15-member squad earlier this week, but it was missing Ravindra Jadeja, whose injury during the Asia Cup comes as a stinging blow.
A canny bowler as well as a left-handed power-hitter, Jadeja offered the India XI much-needed balance. And Jayawardena said his absence will be “a massive loss” to one of the early tournament favourites.
"It is a challenge. They had fitted him nicely in that No.5 role. He has been batting really well and him and Hardik (Pandya) being in that top six – two guys who can give that all-round options – gave India much more flexibility in that batting order," Jayawardena told Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review.
"It is a tough one for them, and probably a concern not having that left-hander. They’ve switched to leaving out DK (Dinesh Karthik) and bringing in Rishabh (Pant) in that role, batting at 5 or 4. Those are things they have to settle going into the World Cup.
"But not having Jadeja, the form that he was in... it will be a massive loss for them."
As big a blow as it is, India still have much to look forward to and can take solace in the return to form of their star batter Virat Kohli. The 33-year-old had taken a month-long break from cricket to focus on his mental health and returned all guns blazing in the Asia Cup.
Kohli broke his century drought that spanned 1,020 days, scoring his 71st international hundred when he smashed an unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan. He finished as the second highest run-getter in the tournament with 276 runs at an impressive 92, striking at 147.59.
"He was there and thereabouts pretty much,” said Jayawardena. “He just didn’t have that big score under his belt to get that confidence, especially in white-ball cricket, which is always going to happen.
“There were a few injury concerns in the last 12 months. He had little niggles and they rested him and India kept on giving people rest, with the workload that they had. So not having that consistent run also makes it tough.
"In the Asia Cup he batted well, showed what he is capable of, especially in that batting position. Going forward for India, having that stability in that line-up and having confidence that a guy like Virat is going to be a factor, is going to be a concern for the opposition as well.
"It’s good to see him batting like that. We need all these brilliant players to be at their best form in a World Cup, and that’s what the World Cup deserves as well. Everyone going at each other at that level. It will be a fascinating World Cup in Australia."
Jayawardena added that India would be further bolstered by the return to fitness of pace ace Jasprit Bumrah.
"For me the way they played, the skills, the talent, everything is there. They just need a little bit of confidence with the bat, with the ball and in the field,” said Jayawardena.
"These are little things that India will want to improve. It’s just the confidence of bowlers being able to get wickets and then executing skills.
“Obviously, not having Jasprit was also a factor. He fills a big gap for them with the new ball and at the back end. That will settle them as well when he is back in Australia.
“World Cups are about momentum, World Cups are about playing your best cricket at the right time. So as long as they lift their game up to that level, I think India has the quality of players who can do that."
THIS IS THE BIG TIME!
The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is coming to Australia from 16 October to 13 November 2022.