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|June 2, 1999||
Be wary of India, says Imran
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan today warned the teams in the elite Super Six league of the World Cup to be wary of India as they are the "cornered tiger".
"India undoubtedly have the best batting line-up. Tendulkar is incomparable, but the team does not rely on him fully, because others like Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly have scored many runs," he said.
The Pakistani legend was of the view that India also has two bowlers in Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, "who are extremely proficient in English conditions", and added, "we certainly have not seen the best of Srinath yet, but maintained that India is still one bowler short.
According to him the biggest match of the World Cup, apart from the final itself, is going to be the clash between India and Australia in the opener of the Super League on June 4 at The Oval.
"The winner of this do or die fixture will be the most dangerous team in the competition, even more than Pakistan or South Africa," he opined.
Justifying his views, Imran said both the teams have "come back from the dead, escaping perilous situations". They count on their nerve when the pressure is pounding upon them to emerge in glory.
"India and Australia have already survived one make or break match in which they knew defeat would mean instant elimination," he said.
According to Imran, the Australia-India fixture will be the "biggest contest", because both the sides are without a single point, and the loser will crash out. Desperation will be there to win the game and this can turn the match into a "classic" one because world-class playes like Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Steve Waugh and Glenn McGrath will be on view.
"The team emerging winner will have tremendous confidence which comes from only this type of contest and they will feel that they can beat anyone. In previous World Cups, it has usually been the case that the winner has peaked at the right time," Imran said.
He said in 1992, Pakistan were off to a poor start, but managed, with some good wins in the make or break matches, to go on and clinch the title.
He said: "The way you reach the semis and final can be crucial; that is why I am worried about Pakistan, because an easy run-up when the team is not really tested may leave you struggling when the pressure is on."
He added: "The World Cup is a test of nerve more than a test of cricketing ability and that is why England is out of the tournament. The hosts, despite good players, failed when the pressure was on them. They paid the price for negative team selection and team strategy."
About the Pakistan and South Africa, Imran said both have similar problems. "Both have worries in their batting. Especially the top order, but both have good bowlers."
These teams have also exposed their vulnerability with unexpected defeats in the group matches after having qualified for the Super League.
Imran dismissed the 'fixed' match theory that South Africa let Zimbabwe beat them to help their "neighbours" and Pakistan allowed "brothers" from Bangladesh to defeat them.
"I think both the teams, after having made it to the Super League, could not motivate themselves in their last fixture."
He said: "South Africa can be beaten by teams who bat first, score a reasonable total and put pressure on their batsmen. The same or may be lesser extent is the case with Pakistan. They have an advantage in going into the Super Six with four points. They need only a win to reach the last four. They have the luxury of having more time to experiment with their batting to get things right."
About Zimbabwe the former Pakistan skipper said, "Their situation is remarkable, they have no superstar and that turned out to be their advantage. West Indies relied too much on Brian Lara, and when he failed to score against Australia, it was all over for the Carribeans."
According to him, Zimbabwe's most impressive player has been Neil Johnson, a genuine all- rounder who opens the bowling and batting in style.
He said New Zealand is also "team oriented" and in left arm bowler Geoff Allott, "they have a bowler with real potential".
He ended with a warning: "Don't write off India or Australia, especially if one of them wins the big test of nerves on Friday."
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