'This is our best opportunity to win the Cup'
Former Test captain Anil Kumble reckons it is India's best chance to lift the ODI World Cup after 1983 but fitness of players will be a major concern and ending the 28-year-old drought will depend on the squad's ability to remain injury-free during the event.
"My only concern is the fitness of the guys. If they can last the entire tournament without injuries, we could certainly regain the Cup," Kumble said.
Kumble said along with India, defending champions Australia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka are the other favourites for the coveted trophy.
"We have a very bright chance, probably it is our best opportunity to win the Cup," said Kumble.
Kumble weighed the advantages that India had to win back the title, last won by Kapil's Devils in 1983.
"We have lot of advantages going into the tournament. The form of the players is encourgaing. The quality of players is good. There are some all-rounders, as well, who can chip in with both bat and ball," emphasised Kumble, who was part of the Indian World Cup campaigns in 1996 (at home), 1999 (England), 2003 (South Africa) and 2007 (West Indies).
Image: Anil Kumble
'Sachin is playing at his best currently'
India's most successful bowler feels the sub-continental dustbowls would be of great advantage to India.
"Besides the form and quality of players, the pitches would suit our game. We know our conditions too well. We know what we can expect," said Kumble, who as president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, has dedicated his time for the conduct of the World Cup matches in the City.
Talking about the disappointment of losing the 1996 semi-finals and the 2003 finals, Kumble said: "We came very close to winning. It was disappointing that we could not get to do what we were capable as a team. Each time we got close and lost, we knew we had to wait for a long time as the World Cup is played only once in four years."
Asked if Sachin Tendulkar, who will be playing his sixth successive World Cup, will be under pressure to deliver in front of the home crowd, Kumble said: "He has been around for 21 years. So there is no question of him being under pressure.
"He is playing at his best that I have seen. He has looked relaxed in all the matches that I have watched. If he plays the World Cup like any other ODI, he should be scoring lots of runs," said Kumble.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'The players have to cope with pressure'
When India came close to winning the title but lost in the finals of 2003, Kumble said Tendulkar, like the rest of the team, was terribly disappointed.
"Considering that we came very close to winning in 2003, I am sure Sachin will be looking forward to winning the one trophy that has eluded him. The entire team will also be striving hard to win back the Cup after five attempts (since 1983).
Kumble said the expectations will be high as the entire nation will be looking upto the players to win the title.
"The expectations will be there as everyone would want the team to triumph. But the players have the experience to cope with it," he said.
Image: Team India
'Pakistan are unpredictable'
Aside from the top teams, Kumble felt Pakistan would be the surprise package.
"Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka will be front runners for the title along with India. But we cannot underestimate Pakistan, as you never know what they could do. They are an unpredictable side," said Kumble.
Kumble's newly-elected committee has ensured that the players are given facilities that they richly deserve.
The dressing rooms have been refurbished. The open-air media box has been airconditioned. The entire Chinnaswamy stadium, which will host five World Cup matches, besides two warm-up games, has been given a fresh coat of paint.
"The players deserve the best. Without them there would be no stadia, no crowd," said Kumble.
Image: Pakistan team