'A lot will depend on Tendulkar'
With Kapil Dev-like instinctive captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni and champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar in their ranks, India are the hot favourites to win the Cricket World Cup starting in the sub-continent from February 19, says 1983 edition winning team-member Kirti Azad.
Terming India an experienced and balanced side, Azad advised Dhoni and his men to focus on their job at hand just like mythical hero Arjuna had done to shoot at the eye of a fish.
"You cannot compare today's side with that of 1983 World Cup team because when we won it we had not collectively played the same number of matches Virender Sehwag has played. But there is one similarity in the two teams -- that is captain.
Kapil had always wanted to play for a win and I see the same instinct in Dhoni. Both leads from the front," Azad told PTI-Bhasha in an interview.
"The biggest plus point of this team is the balance and experience. This team has many match-winners but I feel a lot will depend on Sachin Tendulkar. His experience of the last five World Cups will come handy. His presence lifts the confidence of other players. So I am saying India are the favourites," he said.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'Indian team has killer instinct'
Azad, also a Member of Parliament, said that it is unnecessary for people to debate on whether this World Cup would be the last one for Tendulkar.
"His instinct and appetite for scoring runs have not decreased. From the way he is piling on the runs, it seems that he can play in the next World Cup also," he said.
Azad said India are the top favourites to win the World Cup because the side has the "killer instinct".
"The team had not accepted defeat till the end in the ODI series in South Africa. This shows that the team has the killer instinct. All the players are making contributions to the team cause and except for the wicket-keeping slot we have an alternative player to take place," said the former all-rounder.
Image: Team India
'I hope there will be no injury to Dhoni'
The sub-continental pitches generally assist slow bowlers but Azad advised India to go for a three pacer and one spinner combination in the World Cup.
"Three seamer and one spinner formula would be the right thing. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Sehwag and even Tendulkar can take the responsibility of the fifth bowler," he said.
He also felt it a right decision for the selectors to pick only one wicket-keeper in the Indian squad."Most of the matches have gaps of six days and I hope there would be no injury to Dhoni. God forbid if there is any problem in that regard, I think there will be enough time to call in another player."
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
'Fans look at this team as title contenders'
Azad said many had not thought that the 1983 side would win the World Cup but this time people have huge expectations from the Indian side under Dhoni.
"For the 1983 side, reaching the semi-finals would have been like winning the trophy. But the cricket fans look at this team under Dhoni as title contenders. I hope the expectations of the people should not become pressure on the players," he said.
Besides India, five other teams -- Australia, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa -- can reach the semi-finals.
"You cannot underestimate Australia. By defeating England 4-1 in the ODI series they have shown they are still a good team in limited overs cricket. England have some match-winners while Sri Lanka always do well on sub-continental pitches. You can call Pakistan as dark horse because they are currently not being able to cope pressure," he said.
Image: Auatralian cricket team
'I am happy to have played my role in 1983'
Walking down the memory lanes of 1983, Azad said the win against formidable West Indies in the first match had boosted the confidence of the team.
"Before that, we had beaten West Indies at St Kitts and the win over them in the first match of the World Cup was just like a bonus for us. That gave us a huge boost to our confidence.
"The good thing about us was that as soon as we reached England it became warm and the ball was swinging. We had swing bowlers in Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Balwinder Singh Sandhu and
Mohinder Amarnath. And there is Kapil Dev, no need to say much about him," he said.
"I am happy that I have played my role for the team to win the World Cup in 1983."
Asked about the innings of 175 by Kapil against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, Azad said, "That was a brilliant innings. I was the 12th man on that day but it was just like celebrating Diwali. That performance boosted our confidence that we can be the champions."
Image: Kapil Dev