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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Balwinder Singh Sandhu
'We shouldn't have played the West Indies and Sri Lanka before the World Cup'
April 16, 2007
It is a pity that despite being a hugely talented medium pacer and a handy batsman down the order, Balwinder Singh Sandhu remains one of the unsung heroes of Indian cricket.
Although he did not get too many opportunities to represent the country, some of his performances were outstanding.
But for Sandhu dealing a couple of vital blows at the start of the West Indies innings while chasing a modest target in the final at Lord's, India would probably have not won the 1983 World Cup.
In the following interview with Haresh Pandya, conducted at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera on the outskirts of Ahmedabad during the inter-state Twenty/20 tournament, Sandhu discusses the debacle at the World Cup.
As a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, how does it feel now that Rahul Dravid and company have been blown away from the ongoing World Cup in the West Indies?
I feel very sad and disappointed. I thought this team had everything to be in the final. And from then it was just a matter of playing good cricket for a day. I was really sure that this team had the ability to win the World Cup.
Why do you say Team India had "everything" to be in the final. Could you elaborate, please?
Well, when we went to England in the 1983 World Cup, all we had as a back-up team was a manager. And he was not looking after the cricketing side. He was only dealing with the administration of the side. Whatever we learnt was with our own experience and also by interacting with senior players. But now you have a specialist coach and his supporting arms -- a physio, a trainer, a bio-mechanic, a psycho analyst, a computer analyst and what not. I mean you have a back-up team of more than half-a-dozen personnel to give feedback to players and prepare them in every department, including mental and physical.
And yet the Indian team failed to win even in the first round, which was all but difficult...
Yes. But I don't think our players were lacking in preparation, considering so many specialists to help them. Of course, I don't know with what preparation they had set off for the West Indies. But it can't be lack of preparation.
So what could be the reasons? Have you figured out any?
Maybe, we weren't that well-prepared to participate in as big an event as the World Cup despite having all these experts. Maybe, the kind of hunger for success that should be there wasn't there. I think we played too many matches before the World Cup. We shouldn't have played those eight matches against the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home prior to the World Cup. There shouldn't have been any international cricket for our players for at least a month before the World Cup.
Well, because if you keep playing highly competitive cricket day in, day out, before an important tournament like World Cup, the hunger is no longer there. It's like people in a village going to attend a wedding where there is sumptuous dinner. Most of them would prefer to remain a bit hungry in order that they can have a full meal at the wedding. So the hunger would be there only when you haven't played too many matches before a crucial event like the World Cup. You are no longer hungry enough to face the true challenge and competition.
What should Team India have done instead of playing those one-day internationals against the West Indies and Sri Lanka?
Well, they should have played more domestic matches among themselves. They should have made plans on what they needed to do in the West Indies to win the World Cup. I mean planning is one of the areas where we may have gone wrong. But I think by playing against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, our players were more concerned about how to win against them rather than worry about how to do well in the World Cup.
Don't you think some complacency, some over-confidence had entered the minds of the Indian players by the time they landed on the Caribbean islands?
I don't think it was a question of complacency or over-confidence, not of lacking in commitment. Some of them have played for the country for so many years now and done extremely well for themselves and for the country. So if someone questions their commitment, it's really foolish. Rather than lack of commitment, it's probably a matter of attitude.
But we lost to a minnow like Bangladesh and suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka...
Well, in my view, it was India and not Bangladesh that was under pressure in that particular match. While Bangladesh had nothing to lose and everything to gain, India had to win the match by all means, being a stronger and more experienced side. It was this pressure of doing something remarkable that did India in against Bangladesh. But we must also give full credit to Bangladesh for having played so well. And the same Bangladesh went on to defeat South Africa, too, in the Super Eights.
Do you mean to say India would have performed better had they been playing against an established side?
Yes, I think the pressure would not have been so big if India had been playing against Australia, South Africa or any other major team. I am sure we would have done well against any of these teams in that particular context. But, at the same time, whether you are playing Bangladesh or Australia, you should not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind.
The fear of losing or not doing well can be very dangerous sometimes as our cricketers realised the hard way in the match against Bangladesh. It can affect your game and upset you mentally and you just can't concentrate. You can't win in such a scenario. You should always think of winning only. You can't win if you harbour fear of failure or losing, just like you can't live with the fear of death constantly at the back of your mind.
There were also problems between the coach and some players. Can't such things affect a team playing a team sport like cricket and participating in the World Cup?
They do. I think what happened between some players and coach Greg Chappell was clear case of communication gap. I don't know what exactly happened. But I think such a communication gap or misunderstanding should be solved before they become bigger and harm the team in the end.
The Cup: Complete Coverage