'I want to be Team India's utility man'
As he gears up to live the dream of being in a World Cup squad, young Indian off-spinner R Ashwin says he is trying all he can to be of more utility by improving his batting and, more importantly, learning to handle pressure which "gets to him easily".
"I'm trying my best to be an asset to the side. I'm working hard on my batting and want to be a utility man for the side so that I can be a real asset to the side. Pressure gets to me easily. I am working hard to be calm in a pressure-filled situation," Ashwin said.
The 24-year-old player's rise from obscurity to rank among the top spinners in two years time is no fluke but Ashwin says he is not quite sure whether he would actually get a chance to play in the World Cup starting February 19."I'm not overly-excited or thinking of figuring in the playing XI in the World Cup. I don't know if I have a chance to make the playing XI. I will do whatever is there in my hands. That is a part and parcel of every game. It really does not get to me. I'm focussed in whatever I'm doing," Ashwin said.
Image: R Ashwin (right) and Gautam Gambhir
'I have the trust of my skipper'
Asked how he was gearing up for the World Cup personally, Ashwin said, "I have been working hard and working smartly for past five-six months. When I bowl, I put myself in the batsman's shoes, I keep thinking a lot.
"You really can't work hard on your skill but what you can do is to out-think the batsman on the field. You have to execute your plans well," Ashwin said.
On the three-pronged spin attack, Ashwin said, "Bhajji will lead the attack well. He has really been bowling well... he's always been inspirational and a guiding force. Also, I have the confidence and trust of my skipper (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) that helps in giving freedom as a bowler."
Image: R Ashwin
'We stand a good chance to win the Cup'
With the hype rising about India's prospects in the biggest cricketing extravaganza, Ashwin said: "Already there have been talks that this is the strongest Indian side ever. We are really good as a unit and well-suited to the domestic condition.
"Obviously I want the team to win the Cup. The atmosphere in the team is just perfect, honestly speaking we stand a very good chance. We definitely have all the ammunition to make it to the last stage. But it's just one game at a time after all," Ashwin said.
"Every team is good at this level. You cannot underestimate any team. Moreover aided by technology all the 10 Test playing nations are well-equipped to tackle any opposition."
Image: Team India
'Sri Lanka can be a big threat'
Ashwin felt the recent tour to South Africa has also been good preparation for the mega-event.
"It's one of the best South Africa tours. We put them under tremendous pressure and fought till the end. That's really a good sign... This team has the right vibes, helping each other."
Alongside India, Ashwin picked England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and defending champions Australia to go all the way.
"England are doing very well at the moment, in these sub-continental condition everybody knows that Sri Lanka can be a big threat, while Pakistan can be real dynamite. At the same time, we cannot just rule out World Cup champions Australia," he said.
Image: Sri Lankan cricket team
'Kirsten has been amazing'
At the same time, he said Bangladesh have it in them to upset the heavyweights.
"In home conditions, Bangladesh can be a real threat. I will be surprised if they don't stun some big names in the cricketing world in the course of the tournament."
The World Cup is likely to be Gary Kirsten's swansong assignment as India coach and Ashwin said the South African, under whom the team did exceptionally well, would be missed.
"Of course Gary Kirsten had a major role having been with the side for the last few years. He has been amazing. Hopefully somebody gets into his head and makes him to stay back (with us)," he quipped.
Image: Gary Kirsten