The former opening batsman picks India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as the four semi-finalists in the upcoming tournament Down Under. Harish Kotian reports.
He may be out of the running for a place in the squad for the 2015 World Cup, but Virender Sehwag believes defending champions India are firm favourites in next year’s tournament in Australia-New Zealand.
“We won the World Cup in 2011 and I believe we are capable of defending the title in 2015. Our team is very good and playing well in ODIs. I am sure we can retain the World Cup,” he said, in Mumbai on Tuesday, at the launch of the ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy tour in India.
A lot of experienced players from the 2011 squad are likely to miss out on the ICC's upcoming showpiece one-day event, but Sehwag believes India’s young players are capable of doing well.
“If you have the talent, and if you have a strong mindset, you can perform anywhere in the world. Lot of our players have performed in Australia, South Africa, England and everywhere, so we have the team. Hopefully, we will do well in the World Cup.”
Asked to pick the four semi-finalists, he was a bit apprehensive before naming the host countries along with India and South Africa.
“All teams are good. Recently New Zealand played well against Pakistan in Tests and they will be playing in home conditions at the World Cup. The other teams, like Australia and South Africa, they recently played in Australia. In every match, the score was around the 300-run mark and they were close games. So it is difficult to say which teams would make the last four, but I would still say that it would be Australia, South Africa, India and New Zealand.”
Talking about India’s triumph in 2011, in which he was one of the key contributors with 380 runs in eight games, he revealed the secret of the team’s success.
“We celebrated every knock-out game, the quarter-final, semi-final and the last game. We spent the whole night celebrating the quarter-final victory [against Australia] and the semi-final [against Pakistan] and also the final [against Sri Lanka]. We were lucky that we won the World Cup. These three games were very big for us. We played really well and as a unit. We played against tough opposition, like Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka. We enjoyed throughout the World Cup, everybody was contributing, everybody was happy and everybody was looking to win the World Cup,” the 36-year-old said.
He also claimed that the semi-final against Pakistan was the toughest for the hosts, as they were defending 260 on a good batting wicket at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali.
“The final was not tough because we knew we had won all the matches against Sri Lanka in the last two years. The tough match for us was against Pakistan because we had scored only 260-odd and the wicket was so good to bat on.
“On that wicket, 260 was not enough but the bowlers did a very good job, including Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh,” the Delhi right-hander said.
Sehwag, who played in three World Cups, including 2003 and 2007, was of the view that Australia, with its hard wickets, is the best place for both batsmen and bowlers to perform.
“Australia is the best place to play cricket. You get good wickets -- with bounce, fast wickets -- and the ball comes nicely on to the bat. You will enjoy batting in Australia and you will also enjoy bowling in Australia. I think all the players who will go to the World Cup have already played in Australia; they will be playing in the triangular series before the World Cup, so they will get used to the conditions.
“In the World Cup you will get good wickets to bat and bowl on. You will get true wickets for the game. I don’t think there will be any problem for any team or any problem to adjust,” he said.
Asked if the pressure would be lesser as compared to the last World Cup, when India played in front of home fans, Sehwag retorted: “Our population is so huge that wherever we play the pressure is always there.”