Gone are the days when a World Cup was round the corner and the common stance about an Indian side in cricketing circles would be, “they are a strong side on paper, but…”. My first distinct memory of a World Cup is of the 1999 edition in England. Although I was quite young at that time but I remember how people felt that India is a great side, a star-studded line-up on paper. They common feeling was that, if Tendulkar performs, we‘d win any game, against any opponent. Another common feeling was that if we beat Pakistan in a World Cup tie, that’s as good as winning the mega event in itself.
However it was in 2003, South Africa, that we saw an Indian side that looked a formidable unit on the field as well. Going into the tournament, not many would have betted on us to make it to the finals, owing to our form going into the tournament and the venue being by no means the friendliest place for our brand of cricket. It was a good side on paper, which played splendidly under the captainship of Sourav Ganguly. It was under him, the idea of ‘Team India’ was conceived and was brought to fruition as the Indians gelled together as a cohesive unit. Though we lost the finals, we were delighted to have come this far and at having played cricket of the highest quality. Yes, it was a Tendulkar show in 2003, but a process seemed to have begun. It took a jolt in 2007 when our team was ousted in the first stage of the event. Since then it’s only been an upwards journey.
The 2011 edition is knocking at the door and this time round we have almost everything we could have asked for going into the tournament. The battleground is the Indian sub-continent. It would be the ideal setting for the talent we have in our ranks to blossom fully. We have had a tough, but a successful tour of South Africa. In the ODI’s we pushed them to the hilt without the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Praveen. There would be a certainty in our starting eleven. The likes of Yusuf Patha, Kohli and Zaheer have come into their own. When all of them would be fit, our team would pose a threat to the opponents throughout the match, no matter how heavily the odds be stacked against us. Let’s see how.
Our top order looks menacing to say the least with Sehwag and Tendulkar as openers and Gambhir (the millionaire) at three. Sehwag can destroy any attack on any day and Tendulkar and Gambhir can shift gears at will. The plus would be that our openers are as destructive against spin as pace, which will not be the case with most other top-orders. Kohli, who seems all set to be the next big thing in the world of cricket, would come at number four. Yuvraj and Raina, would be fighting it out for one spot. Both seem a touch out of form, with the bat that is, but have been doing rather well with the ball but are both match winners on their day. Raina seems to tip Yuvi over in the fielding capacity, while Yuvi’s left arm off-spin would give MS the variety. It would be a tough call.
Captain, Dhoni would provide the fire-power with Yusuf Pathan. Both are belligerent with the bat and can finish off games, a problem that has been a thorn in India’s flesh for some time before this duo had addressed the issue. Harbhajan, Zaheer and PK can all bat and have proved themselves many times. The third seamer in Nehra would be our number eleven. As far as the bowling is concerned, we are not the best, but have plenty of options. Still we miss the ideal all rounder who can bowl medium pace and bat.
However, this shouldn’t be a problem given the spin friendly conditions. We have Sehwag, Raina/Yuvraj, Yusuf and Sachin to do the job of the fifth bowler. They are more than handy to be called part-time spinners. Zaheer would be the main weapon as he can swing the ball in the initial overs and reverse it in the final overs. Praveen can swing the new ball both ways prodigiously. Nehra is a nippy bowler. If Munaf plays as the third seamer, he would provide consistent line and length. Another option for MS would have been going in with two pacers and spinners each. Either the canny Ashwin or the leggie Chawla would play. The team seems to have all the fronts covered.
This Indian side gives the feeling that we can turn the tables on any opposition. It plays its best cricket when their backs are against the wall. This was apparently missing in the Indian sides of yester year. The fact that the youngsters have raised the bar of fielding in the team is a welcome change. This Indian side has developed a habit of winning. Not a bad habit at all, isn’t it. All these factors would add up to a very realistic chance of India winning the World Cup after so many years.
Yes, there would be tremendous pressure of the public. We don’t expect this side, which is always under pressure to buckle under it. MS Dhoni has always maintained in his press conferences that they focus on executing their plans on the field, play good quality cricket and give it their best shot every time and if they do this, the results would follow and they do not worry about the results. Such an attitude shows that we are on the right track. Given the factors discussed above, nothing should hinder us in achieving this ultimate dream, the ultimate dream of the team, the dream of all Indians and the one special dream of Sachin Tendulkar.
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