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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

Quietly confident India ready for Kenya

Faisal Shariff in Durban | March 19, 2003 22:15 IST

"We are World Cup winners. Get comfortable with it" is one of the many posters that don the Indian cricket team room these days.

The exact date of when the poster was prepared is unknown but it doesn't take a degree in quantum physics to deduce it was probably stuck up on the walls long after the defeat to Australia a month ago.

The Indian team seems to be a different animal these days. Quiet yet confident. No member of the team boasts of its performance and yet the confidence of seven consecutive victories -- second only to the defending champions Australia -- shows through the humble veneer.

Barring the odd statement from Harbhajan Singh who said he was not expecting the team to make it to the semi-finals but to the finals of the World Cup, the senior members have maintained a studied silence through this tournament.

The rains that have dampened the mood are causing concern in the Kenyan camp. If the semi-final against India is washed out, India will go through to the final against Australia on the basis of the win against Kenya in the Super Sixes.

Indian team at the netsFor the Indians the focus outlasts everything else. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has allowed the players to have their wives over. Yet, all players barring Ajit Agarkar and Sanjay Bangar have refused the offer saying they want to concentrate on the game and get the Cup home.

The important aspect of the decision is the self-discipline displayed by each member of the team. No one needs to check on them anymore. The players seemed to have adapted to their fitness regimen like a fish to water.

Tuesday after the team returned from nets late in the afternoon, more than half the blokes went for a run on the beach.

Interestingly, in the 1999 World Cup when eventual champions Australia had their backs to the wall mid-way through the tournament and had to win seven consecutive games to lift the trophy they implemented a strict code of conduct.

Every member had to avoid drinks barring the odd beer at supper and retire to their rooms quickly. No one was going to watch them or discipline them. Coach Geoff Marsh told the team if they were hungry enough to win they would need to take personal responsibility for what they did on and off the field.

In the Indian camp no one looks beyond the next game. Coach John Wright hates talk of an India-Australia final and drives home the point that there is an India-Kenya semi-final still blocking the way to the bullring in Johannesburg.

Wright believes Kenya has been the most underrated side and instead of passing them off as flukes their three victories against Test playing nations need to be applauded.

Wright admitted there was pressure on both sides and more on Kenya since they have never been in the semi-finals before. The Kenyans say they have nothing to lose.

Rahul Dravid disagreed saying they did have a semi-final to lose and whoever disagrees needs to be a strong believer in the power of denial.

Kenyan vice-captain Hitesh Modi summed up the key game between India and Kenya by saying that the pressure has to be on India. "India haregi to public phad degi. (If India loses they will face the wrath of the people)"

For the Indian team though it will be more important to focus on their game rather than the pressure or their position in the tournament.

Kenyan coach Sandeep Patil's reported criticism of the Indian strategy of playing seven batsmen fails to cut any ice with the Indian think tank. Patil argues that the seven-batsmen strategy for India is baffling and it is time they look for a specialist fifth bowler.

"If it ain't broken don't mend it" is the reply from the Indian camp. Its been working for them and there is no reason to experiment for a big game like the semi finals.

There is a lot of purpose in the nets and the buzz has to be seen to be believed.

The face-off between Yuvraj Singh and Javagal Srinath is the highlight of the nets.

Each shot that Yuvraj plays is criticized by Srinath, who argues that he would have had a fielder in that position. It takes the intervention of Sachin Tendulkar to decide whether Yuvraj would have hit a boundary or Srinath would have had him caught.

Sourav Ganguly from the adjacent nets eggs Yuvraj to smash the ball hard and send it flying to Johannesburg. It might all seem fun but Srinath ensures he makes each ball count and forces the youngsters Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif to think about the stroke instead of just feel good about getting it in the middle of the bat.

At another net Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble are at their best against Rahul Dravid,  who passes a comment after each ball. Coach John Wright is watching closely as is skipper Ganguly.

The Indian bowlers seem to be on a high these days. If India's batting has been the backbone of their showing in the tourney the bowling has been the guiding hand, drawing comparisons with the Australian attack.

There is discussion that Zaheer Khan should open the bowling instead of Srinath because Zaheer bowls five overs in his first spell while Srinath bowls seven. If Srinath bowls first change it allows the team to avoid bowling the spinners in the first 15 overs as Ashish Nehra can bowl the remaining three overs.

As an effort to keep the competitive edge going, the batsmen and bowlers have their own  volleyball series going. The bowlers are slightly ahead as of now.

Wright is a realist and admits everything is a lot more fun when the team is winning. The hard work is magnified by the media, he says.

The seven captain story -- which claims that India has seven captains Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid for batting, Srinath and Kumble for bowling, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif for fielding along with captain Ganguly -- doing the rounds was rubbished by Wright who said India had only one captain and that was Ganguly.

What the others do is merely delegation of responsibility at team meetings and ensure that every member is involved in the team strategy.

Thus if Harbhajan Singh is responsible for the huddle in the middle then Sanjay Bangar could take a lot of credit for the talk he gave the batters before the Pakistan game.

In passing another banner from the Indian team room: 'We play to our best and put the Cup in the chest'

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Number of User Comments: 19

Sub: who cares!!!


Posted by nitya

Sub: RE:who cares!!!

I care about War. :( . Because I am not in safe place like you ;) .

Posted by Ramesh

Sub: RE:who cares!!!

then go fight the war instead of posting msgs, and leave the cheering to us.

Posted by rk

Sub: India must be wise to win this cup

I think india should play good and get some runs on board and put the opposition into bat and bowl some quite overs and take ...

Posted by Ajay Kumar

Sub: Excellent Article!!!

This article is really very excellent in terms of content and presentation. I read through twice just to enjoy reading it again. It gives a ...

Posted by Sonalika


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