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India's famed quartet eye Cup glory
N.Ananthanarayanan | February 22, 2007 15:50 IST
A quartet of India's golden generation of cricketers will aim for glory in West Indies in what is expected to be their last World Cup.
The game's ultimate prize is still missing from the trophy cabinets of stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble.
Leg-spinner Kumble (36), India's most successful bowler, skipper Dravid and fellow batsmen Ganguly (both 34) and Tendulkar (33) have displayed their class for more than a decade and the next edition in 2011 could be a bridge too far.
Tendulkar, who will play in his fifth World Cup, holds the records for most one-day runs (14,783), hundreds (41) and caps (381). Ganguly and Dravid are also among only six players to aggregate more than 10,000 one-day runs.
On pitches expected to help batsmen, India can hope to make amends after champions Australia thrashed the 1983 champions by 125 runs in the 2003 final in South Africa.
However, India face questions over their fielding, the poor form of explosive batsman Virender Sehwag and 22-year-old seamer Irfan Pathan and the team's slump before they won the recent home series against West Indies and Sri Lanka on batting tracks.
Sehwag has managed one fifty in 13 innings since May last year. Chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar has urged the instinctive player to show focus and preserve his wicket.
Pathan was emerging as coach Greg Chappell's trump card with batting heroics up the order to help India claim a record 17 successive wins chasing a target in 2006.
However, his bowling form has deserted him since the West Indies tour in May-July and the management, in an unprecedented move, sent him home from South Africa late last year asking him to regain his form in domestic tournaments.
However, he played just one game in the twin one-day series at home complaining of shoulder strain.
Key middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh has only just returned after he tore knee ligaments in October while Ajit Agakar, the most capped seamer in the side, has a history of breaking down.
The team management could also face a dilemma over Kumble -- who has rarely played one-dayers since 2003 -- with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh holding the edge if only one specialist spinner is fielded for key games.
However, India can breathe easy over two comeback men.
Former skipper Ganguly and left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan have looked in fine touch since making strong comebacks late in 2006 after being sacked last February over form and fitness.
A window of opportunity has also opened following Australia's sudden form dip following defeats to England and New Zealand.
Dravid has urged his players to show consistency and feels his team are capable repeating their 2003 run when they overcame a sluggish start to reach the final.
Millions of fickle Indian fans will hope their sporting idols would finally end their 24-year wait for success.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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