May 13, 1999
India's chances are slim
What are the chances of the Indian team to win the
World Cup? In my
opinion, very little. Infact, I won't be
surprised, if the team returns home after the
first round itself.
Sorry to burst the hopeful bubble of
some eager Indian fans.
Twelve years back, the
Indian team was labelled
as a dark horse of the
championship by KimHuges (former Australian captain).
Not many people,
including diehard fans,
gave the team any serious look. But, Kapil's Devils
(as they were later called) did it on that unforgettable
night (Indian time) of June 25, 1983. The key to the
performance then was the allround ability of
the Indian team and the favourable conditions of
England, which suited the team. Of course, a large
slice of luck too played a role.
But 1999 is no 1983. Cricket, especially the
one-day variety, has undergone a radical change.
The last three World Cups have shown that the teams
which dared to try out things differently and which
had a balanced team composition, performed well.
In the1992 World Cup, MartinCrowe stunned the
cricket pundits when he opened the bowling with
an offspinner (Patel) and the batting with a slambang
hitter (Greatbatch). And he almost pulled
off a major upset, until that crucial game against
Pakistan, when Inzamam played that amazing knock.
Ultimately, it was Pakistan which had the last laugh,
thanks to a combination of the poor World Cup format,
large doses of luck, great captaincy by Imran and
Pakistan's fighting ability plus natural talent.
In the last World Cup, 1996, we were in for another surprise.
ArjunaRanatunga extended the concept of pinch-hitting to majestic levels with
Jayasurya and Co. scoring over six an over
in the first 15 overs of all most all matches. That
combined with solid middle order batting, atheletic fielding, long bowling line-up, cool
captaincy and a strong desire to win, made Sri Lanka the worthy
Further back in 1987, we had Border's Australian team pulling off a great
series of wins to become the World champs. And that, too, had much to do with
good team work, team balance and
never-give-up attitude. (Just remember that tense semi-final against Pakistan, in Pakistan, and also the finals at Calcutta).
So, when we look back at the previous World Cups, we do have a
fair estimation of what it takes to win the cup.
Now, does the present Indian team have any of
Led by a poor captain (who should have long back retired), a dummy
manager (who is renowed for his slow batting in the 70's), this team is lacking in
innovation, consistency and the spirit to win.
I don't know how much part time manager, Simpson, and trainer,
Andrew Kokinos, can influence the team from this rut. To make things worse, India is in a relatively
more difficult group, where
they have to battle South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe for the
three slots to the semis. No easy task by any standards.
Let's look at the Indian team in detail:
Openers: There is still a question on whether Sachin will open the innings or not. There is one section which feels that it's
not worth exposing Sachin at the top during
the early part of the innings
under English conditions, where ball seams around a lot.
But, whatever it may be, the best part of the Indian
batting is the opening pair of Sachin and Ganguly. We can
expect a good show from Gangs this time.
Middleorder: I think this is going to be the problematic area for
the team. With Dravid, Jadeja and Azar as the regulars, there
doesn't seem to be too much depth in terms of flexibility and
ability. Dravid should hopefully do well, considering the
fact that English tracks are most suited for technique and
orthodox batting, which he is good at. But, his ability
to play a matchwinning knock is yet to be proved.
I am not so sure about the other two - Jadeja,
Jadeja, for all his odd
heriocs on the flat tracks
of India and Sharjah, is yet to
prove his ability outside
India. We all know how
miserably he performed in New Zealand,
just a few months back. So,
let's not expect too
much for him. But, if he comes
in to bat after 35 overs, with
the ball old and
losing its shine, his scoring could be better.
During the last one year, Azhar
has gone down in all aspects. His batting has been
more of 'harvest reaping'
variety and not that of a
leading batsman. Again,
considering his age and
experience, his place would
be more lower down the order.
So, what we are looking at is a
major problem if
couple of wickets fall early in the innings.
The batting lacks the depth and
if you look at the
Indian tail , it hardly inspires any
Ramesh and Kurasiya fill
the back-up slots. I
hope both these players get a chance
to play in the eleven, at least for a
All-rounder: We are yet to fill in a Kapil.
For now, we have got Robin Singh, one of the most sincere
performers in the team. I mean,
he is out there
trying to prove himself in every game, be
it batting, bowling or
fielding. His success or
failure would mean a lot to the Indian team's
performance in this World Cup.
Wicket-keeping: Mongia. Not the most popular of
players among Indian
fans. We all remember how
he pushes and plods, his
poor running between wickets. But, the plus point is,
we have a sound keeper behind
Bowling: Bowling is India's strength in
this World Cup. We
have got a decent seam attack in
Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar
with a fair back-up in
Mohanty. Prasad is at his
best. Srinath and
Agarkar should be
doing well too. But, I am not
sure about how Azhar is going
to handle them and what sort of support they
are going to get from our
In the spin dept, we have
Kumble (who is more of
a medium pacer) and Chopra.
I saw Chopra bowl a season
back and he seemed to be
ok, though nothing
spectacular (like Saqlain
We also have Sachin, Ganguly
and Robin to bowl.
Should be very handy.
It's encouraging to see that
Jadeja too is chipping
in with some quick overs.
It gives the captain more
options during crisis.
Fielding : This is the biggest weakness of the Indian
Pakistan, which was notorious
for their poor fielding have
improved. And according to
Akram's recent article, they
have been working more on fielding
than on other aspects. Whereas, the Indian
team fielding practice is more of 'drill' sessions, just
like the ones we used
to do during our PT classes in
school. When fielding is
poor, it affects the other
aspects. The bowlers can get
disheartened. More runs will
be gifted. The opposition's
spirits can heighten.
Average teams like New Zealand and
Zimbabwe have been
regular giant killers due
to their fielding ability alone.
And every team which
has won the World Cup in the
past have had good fielding runs.
How can we forget Kapil's catch of Richards
in the finals of 83?
Captaincy and strategy: This is going to be another
problem for India. With
Azhar at helm, it's
like a typical Bollywood film
production. Just like
scenes are written on the sets
of the film, Azhar will be doing
his thing on the field
without much thought.
To back him up, is Gaekwad, who
put us all to sleep
with his batting on the Test field.
We have to see whether Simpson
can inculcuate some
sense of strategy and
smartness in the team.
Overall: Strengths of the Indian team: Good openers, good bowling line-up.
Star batsman - Sachin. Decent back-up batsmen in Ganguly and Dravid.
Weakeness: Poor fielding, inconsistency in performance, weak middle order, lack of killer spirit, poor strategy,
With so much against them, it will be surprise, if we
can pull it off. Let's hope for the best. MikeAtherton has said that
India is going to be
a strong contender for this World Cup.
We will know it in a few weeks. Let's look at
getting into the next round
and then take it step by step.
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