COLOMBO: Former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram has thrown his weight behind off-colour Virender Sehwag, saying skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni must trust the India opener's abilities.
"Sehwag's position in the batting line-up is a no brainer. Dhoni has to trust Sehwag's abilities," Akram said on the eve of India's World Twenty20 match against Australia.
The former speedster referred to Mike Hussey's "interesting" statement that a player like Sehwag is "never out of form".
"Hussey knows what he is saying and he is not far from the truth. If Sehwag is fit, he must open the batting for India. No questions asked.''
"India will be playing their first Super 8 match against Australia at the Premadasa Stadium. Given the nature of the wicket Sehwag is an automatic choice.''
"The deck is perfect for his style of batting, but that does not mean Sehwag can throw caution to the wind. The longer he stays at the crease, India will profit," Akram wrote in a website.
Concerns over Zaheer Khan's bowling are "legitimate" according to Akram, but he left it on the struggling seamer to decide on which format to play in and which to skip.
"There have been legitimate concerns over Zaheer. He is bowling well with the new ball but struggling to contain the runs with the old ball. But no one can negate Zaheer's experience. He still remains an asset to India.''
"We are nobody to decide on his future. He is the best man to choose which format of cricket he must continue to play. My advice to him is that he should sprint more in the last two overs.''
"He is only 33 and just needs to get his rhythm back with lot of work in the nets," he said.
Akram also did not endorse the idea of using Irfan Pathan as a pinch-hitter.
"India can't afford to experiment at this stage. While I see Irfan Pathan's role in the team as an all-rounder, using him as a pinch-hitter or an opener is not a great idea because India's top order has quite a few batsmen who can smack the ball from the very start.''
Akram is expecting India to go in with at least two spinners against Australia.
"Harbhajan Singh's impressive return has given the Indians a selection headache. Piyush Chawla is a tempting choice for the sheer variety he brings to the table with his googly and flippers.''
"And there is the in-form offie (R) Ashwin. Therefore, if Dhoni opts for two specialist spinners, I will not be surprised."
As far as the Super Eights groupings are concerned, Akram said, "Group 2 is surely the group of death. Australia are a top notch side though I believe that their middle-order needs to improve. They always rise to the occasion and that makes them a dangerous side.''
"India and Pakistan have showed their might in this format and have really performed well in the league stages. South Africa falter in big games but their excellent fielding can galvanize their performance any time. South Africans have good experience of the conditions.''
"Several of them play the IPL. It's really tough to pick which two teams will make the last four from group 2. But one thing is for sure, the champion team will almost certainly come from this pool."