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May 5, 1999

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India can do it again

Anish Balakrishnan

As we approach the beginning of the latest edition of the World Cup, there is but one nagging question in the minds of millions of Indians: Can India do it? Can it win the World Cup this time?

Looking at all the teams, it appears that South Africa and Australia will be the favourites. They are formidable teams and any team that beats either of them can be very proud of itself. The Aussies and the Proteans do not give in at all. That is where their strength lies. The Aussies are great fielders and great fighters. They have a great bowling attack and enough stars in the team to see them through. The South Africans are a stronger team, but they seem to choke in important matches. They will have put all that behind and will be looking to win the Cup this time around.

England has the advantage of playing at home. But four points make this advantage look pretty insignificant. Firstly, England has played at home in two previous editions of the tournament without winning. Secondly, the country (except Sri Lanka) hosting the Cup has never won before. Thirdly, too many horrendous losses are too recent to be forgotten easily and the team, despite a few wins, will not be too confident. Fourthly, their preparation for the World Cup shows a lack of foresight that could cost them a berth into the final.

Sri Lanka is still a great team. It still has the most formidable batting line-up in the tournament. It is also a great fielding team and commitment has never been an issue. But their bowling is their weakest link and this could prove to be their undoing in English conditions.

Pakistan is coming together as a team at the right time. Shoaib Akhtar will be the man to watch. They have the best bowling attack, but it is their batting and their fielding that could let them down.

The West Indies have lost Carl Hooper at the worst possible time. For many years he was the backbone of the team, and his loss could see the team losing an already sinking morale. All in all, it is not the team that won the first two editions of the Cup.

New Zealand is a team of all-rounders and therein lies their strength. If they acquire a few stars, they will be a great team. This team is definitely the dark horse. Of the other teams, only Zimbabwe and Kenya seem to have even an outside chance of getting past the league round. The former, because of it's tenacity, and the latter, because it beat the West Indies once.

Kenya definitely has the talent. What it lacks is experience. That leaves us with India. So, can India win?

As an Indian, I desperately want India to win. Objectively speaking, yes, India definitely has a chance of becoming World champions again. They have the batsmen, the bowlers and the fielders to do it. They have the world's greatest batsman too. To win the Cup, the team will have to believe in itself. They have proved that they can win matches without Sachin. They have a genius in their midst, and it is their duty to take as much pressure off his shoulders as they possibly can. After all, he is only human, and... a team is composed of eleven players, not one, right?

Agarkar is another man to watch. He could be the real big player of the tournament. India's late middle order and its lackadaisical fielding are its weakest links. The talent is there but the confidence is missing.

Azhar is also another factor. Recent events have put him in the spotlight. Jadeja's performance as the stand-in captain and comparisons in Azhar's disfavor must have sapped his flagging confidence. He has to put it all behind him and go out there and do a great job. He has done it before.

In this day and age where computers are used to analyse opponents and devise field settings, India (the #1 software nation) is woefully lacking the aid of technology. Ironically, the BCCI is the richest board, yet, it does not use technology to help a team that is already traumatised by a corrupt, stupid and largely useless selection committee. Anyway, no predetermined game plan is totally reliable in these times. The captain will have to adjust his team's game plan according to the situations that arise.

Finally, as I mentioned before, along with millions of fellow Indians, am praying and hoping for our team's success. We will forgive you even if you lose, boys. Just remember to go down fighting. Whatever happens, don't do something as horrific as getting out for 125! And, do not repeat the mistakes of the 1996 semi-final game. All the very best!

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