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The Rediff Cricket Interview
'Rahul Dravid's boys have in them plenty to win this World Cup'
March 12, 2007
Aunshuman Dattaji Gaekwad was a member of the Indian team at the first two World Cups in England, in 1975 and '79. He went on to coach the team at the seventh edition in 1999.
The former opening batsman discussed India's chances at the upcoming World Cup in the West Indies with Haresh Pandya, at the Maharaja Fatesingh Museum, in Baroda.
Does Team India stand any chance of winning this World Cup?
I think it has as good a chance of winning as some of the more fancied teams. The important thing is we have to play to our potential. It [Team India] is a proven commodity at the international level now. So there is nothing to worry about it. I think this is India's best chance to win the World Cup, all factors considered.
This has been said on the eve of every new edition of the quadrennial showpiece ever since we won it in England in 1983, but our players have not been able to do an encore�
To answer your other question, first, it shows that Indian team has been very strong since 1983, and hence it has always been considered a favourite to win the World Cup. It shows the level and standard of our cricketers. Now, about your main question. You must remember that India had reached the final of the last World Cup in South Africa. It is a different matter altogether, though, that Ricky Ponting simply snatched it from us by playing that blazing knock. But till then we were so close to winning. So this is how it goes. It can be any time. It is only a question of looking at your own potential and ability. Rahul Dravid's boys have in them plenty to win this World Cup.
Are there any players you consider key to India's fortunes at the World Cup?
We have plenty of key players, not just one or two who could be too good for the opposition. Even Virender Sehwag is a key player, regardless of his lack of form lately. If he gets going, he should be a very important player. We have Mahendra Singh Dhoni, too, who has the ability to change the complexion of any match. Then, of course, there is Sachin Tendulkar, who can do anything with the bat. Dravid and Yuvraj Singh are also very important to India's scheme of things.
What about India's bowling?
We've some really good world-class bowlers. Irfan Pathan has started doing well. Munaf Patel is very good; he is in form too. Zaheer Khan is there, bowling at his best. S Sreesanth has shown a lot of promise. Ajit Agarkar, who can both bowl and bat, is also there to lend support to other bowlers. Then you have two experienced spinners in leggie Anil Kumble and offie Harbhajan Singh. So it is a pretty balanced side packed with many key players.
What is India's strength? Batting?
No, I would say bowling is our strength. Batting has to be good. But we have not had a good beginning in recent times. So, a good start is a bit of concern. But we have a very balanced and varied bowling attack.
Is it a correct move to make Sachin Tendulkar the vice-captain at this stage of his career?
You do not have a choice; there is nobody else. Do you have any choice? Yuvraj Singh was not fit when the team was selected, when the captain and vice-captain were selected; Sehwag was out of form. So who else do you think you could have been named as vice-captain?
Don't you think minnows like Bermuda, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Kenya and Scotland rob an event like the World Cup of some of its glitter because most of the big teams prove just too good for them?
So what? These teams need encouragement and exposure. I personally feel they have to get exposure at the international level. So they have to play the big teams some time or the other. I do not think there is anything wrong in these minnows playing in the World Cup. If they keep playing against themselves, they will probably go nowhere. They will get neither exposure nor improve the quality and standard of their play. So the best thing is to give them as many opportunities as we can to rub shoulders with established international sides.
Who do you think will make the semi-finals?
Difficult question to answer, but India is definitely going to be one of the semi-finalists. The next could be Australia. Then New Zealand, followed by England.
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