A cricket crazy nation passionately woos the Cup

Published: Friday, January 17, 2003, 22:51 [IST]
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Bangalore: With just three weeks left for the mega event, the air is filled with cricket, cricket and more cricket - at least that's how it seems in our country.

The promotional campaigns, public statements, predictions and analysis have all begun. More and more space and time is being devoted by the media for this the mother of all tournaments. In short, there is an enormous swell building up. India's stakes at the 2003 World Cup seem to have taken a dip after its tour to the home of the Black Caps. India's recent showing at New Zealand has evoked a mixed bag of response.

With the critics ever ready to lash the whip and the diehard fans pleading on India's behalf. So, what are India's chances at the World Cup? Talking of chances, when it comes to teams like Australia and South Africa, I suppose it's a simple matter of putting your mouth where the money is. But when it comes to a team like India you are skating on thin ice - one day it is exhilarating stuff and the other day it is exasperating. Having said that, you've got such jaw-dropping talent on this Indian side that it would be hard not to weigh them in. I sometimes feel, in a way, this New Zealand tour might not have done the Indians that much of harm as it looks out to be.

With their dismal performance in New Zealand, people's expectations won't be that high, which means that much pressure is off their back. Having been in the dumps they can, now, only reach out higher - it's time to bounce back. That's one way of looking at things. But, these things are not going to account for much if India does not have the basic stuff required to get the job done. In my opinion, India is a team that is heavily dependent on star performances - which quite a few individuals are capable of. What I mean is; India's talent base is not proportionately spread across the table. We are not evenly strong in the various departments of the game.

This is why it is difficult for the Indians to be tagged favourites straight away. But because we have a star crew in Tendulkar, Sehwag, Ganguly, Kaif and support cast in, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Dravid, Srinath, Nehra, Harbhajan, a box office hit is not completely ruled out. It all depends on how early the Indian batsmen can shrug the dust of New Zealand and get into the groove. If they are able to do that, they definitely will set alarm bells ringing. India is capable and very much counts as a potential threat. But will India go the distance? That's the million-dollar question and I think not. India will cause a flutter or two but I don't see them going all the way.

It is no secret that we are poor in our running between, okay in our fielding and competitive in our bowling (sometimes excellent) and I feel this is where India may stumble. As the championship progresses things are going to get tighter and small aspects like running between and agility on the field are going to make a difference, not to mention the ability of the captain to get his calls right. But to hell with ability and agility, being an Indian I sincerely hope Ganguly and his men can throw all calculations out of the window, prove every critic wrong and bring home the Cup.

I hope the batsmen more than make up for all the weaknesses we have and overpower the opposition. So also I hope the bowlers, who did wonderfully well in New Zealand, take this confidence and put it to play in the World Cup and the fielders back them up. A cricket crazy nation needs this Cup and we cheer the India team through every step of its endeavour.

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