WC 2003 - I always knew we had the side to come back: Ganguly
Published: Friday, February 21, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Ganguly believes that India can hold the Cup aloft
Johannesburg: Five weeks after being vilified as a national disgrace, India skipper Saurav Ganguly aims to come full circle on Sunday by leading his team to its first World Cup triumph in 20 years with victory over defending champion Australia.When India was bowled out for just 125, its lowest ever World Cup total, on its way to a crushing nine-wicket defeat by Ricky Ponting's men back on February 15, no one gave the team hope of being involved in the final.But Ganguly, whose Kolkata home was stoned by angry mobs after that defeat, has engineered a remarkable transformation in his team's fortunes. "We've played good cricket over the last eighteen months in One-day cricket," said the captain after the easy 91-run win over Kenya in the semi-final in Durban on Thursday."Australia in the first round was just one of those days. You need a bit of time to get used to these tracks and since then we've beaten everybody hands down, it's been one-sided. I always knew we had the side to come back. We've won eight games in a row - that's definitely good preparation for a World Cup final."The only concern for Ganguly is the form of Rahul Dravid behind the stumps who let through 16 byes as India conceded 39 extras during the Kenyan innings. To make matters worse, he also picked up a finger injury."The success of this team in the last 11 or 12 months is down to his keeping and the way he's batted at number five. He just had one of those days when he didn't play well. He got hit on the finger but he's alright," said Ganguly.Ganguly led from the front with an unbeaten 111 in the 91-run semi-final win over outsiders Kenya at Durban on Thursday. "The final is a huge thing for us back in India where cricket is more than a sport. But we've done pretty well in high pressure games," he said.However, Ganguly denied suggestions this was the best thing that could have happened to the team, saying the reaction of some fans back home, which included stoning his house, was indefensible. "What happened to Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Kaif and at my place was not right. These things shouldn't happen in sport," he said.Ganguly added that his team could take on Australia. "We've played good cricket over the last one-and-a-half years in One-day cricket. Ganguly, however, conceded Australia was a very good side. "They are a great side. They are still the best Test team in the world. We'll have to play well to beat them but Australia will have to play well to beat us also." Asked if Australia was still the best One-day outfit, Ganguly replied, "We'll find that out on the 23rd."Australia's much-vaunted top order has suffered a slump in each of its last three matches and Ganguly said, "Every team has a bit of a weakness. If the top order gets out quickly it exposes the middle-order. But in every game one of them has stood up."Ganguly rejected claims that the general standard of play at the tournament had been poor. It's been a high-quality World Cup," he insisted. "Australia and India have played yards better."The Indian captain also praised Kenya, the first non-Test nation to reach the last four. "All credit to Kenya, they've played well to get so far."Despite being in no danger of losing the match after piling up 270 for four, India took its time to finish off Kenya, eventually wrapping up the match in the 47th over when it bowled out the East Africans for 179.It was hard to imagine the Australians showing a similar lack of ruthlessness but Ganguly defended his tactics. "We wanted to give everybody a bowl. Once they were 90 for six we wanted to give everybody an opportunity. But once the fast bowlers came back we finished it off quickly."