WC 2003 - Columns - Ganguly

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2003, 0:18 [IST]
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India could still faze the rest if Saurav Ganguly and his men believe in their own ability as they did in the home series against Australia two years ago.

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A billion and more hopes ride on India doing well in the World Cup in South Africa. The goodwill, the outpouring of support, the unmatched passion of fans could lift any set of people to respond out of their skins. Faith can move mountains. Only, India needs to believe in its own ability.It was belief, which made India turn the corner against Australia in a home series in 2001. Indians beat Australia because they believed they could do it.

They took the Aussies on with aggression; they backed themselves and produced a result, which stunned the world. They have to apply the same rules over the next few weeks.Indians could start believing only if they completely forget what happened in New Zealand. They suffered in difficult conditions but it wouldn't serve them to carry the hangover to South Africa. Conditions would be friendly inSouth Africa. It would be more akin to Indian conditions than, say, in Australia. They need to remember their better moments and what made it happen. One of the prime reasons for India doing well in recent times is because Sachin Tendulkar has fired.

Whenever he succeeds, India usually ends up doing well. India needs to use its best batsman for most periods rather than consign him a defensive role at number four. He would score a hundred anyway if he lasts 50 overs. At the top of the order, he can nicely set up the game for his team. If one has to pick a batsman for his life, it would be Tendulkar. If India has to feature in the finals of the World Cup, Tendulkar needs to be at the top of the order.Saurav Ganguly is another key batsman to India's plans. His mental stage is the critical one. He is a good player but most good players lose their way mentally. Confidence is a state of mind and if Ganguly could resurrect it quickly, he could inspire a young team and also lead from the front.

Ganguly has inside edged deliveries on to his stumps quite often in recent times and it happens when you play outside the line of a delivery. Most of the time you inside edge because of a bottom-hand grip and it generally comes from being too anxious, too uptight. If he could be in the right frame of mind and be relaxed, confidence could flow and the team would benefit.As for the ball bouncing and putting him in discomfort, Ganguly wouldn't have to worry on this count in South Africa. He would be able to adjust to bounce in those conditions.

He needs early form to lead a young side. India has two or three young players like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Virender Sehwag who are crucial to the team's plan. The team management needs to show faith in young players and you could only ignore it at your own peril. Youth brings its own exuberance and dash on the field. They would mix talent with enthusiasm and field with aggression, which is an important ingredient in a One-day arena. Tendulkar is the key but he would require support from the other end to help India meet its goal.

Indians don't have to worry if they are not starting with a quality all-rounder in their line-up. Australia too lacks a quality two-in-one cricketer. But it doesn't affect their potency. One can't overstate the role of an all-rounder in a One-day game. An all-rounder should be able to hold his place in a team on both bowling and batting count. There are not good enough cricketers to do such a role. If they can't do it, you are better off without them. India, by the looks of it, should get through to the Super Six stage. It must ensure to win games, which it would normally win.

It implies an absolute concentration and runaway wins against the likes of Holland and Namibia. Its batting needs to be at full throttle in lead up games. Indians could then face critical games against England, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. India needs to win at least two of these three games to make the cut for the next stage. India could also beat Aussie but in my view, the latter are overwhelming favourites to win the cup. They are the best side in the world, definitely the most committed and talented and without doubt the best prepared team for this World Cup. But then anyone is capable of winning in a two-horse race.

If Indians could get to a good start, they could beat Australia. If they could take early wickets and the middle-order is exposed, the experience of two spinners, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, could be vital. Kumble has done well against Australia and Harbhajan was a class act when the two last met on a cricket field. But Indians have to believe they could do it like they believed when they won the classic 2001 home series.Aussies are favourites in my book and their main danger would emerge from South African quarters.

Pakistan has the talent to beat them and India and Sri Lanka would always be in competition. But all these sides need to believe in themselves, play with confidence and do the basics of batting, fielding and bowling right. Even though One-day game has evolved and there are many innovations, it is not all aggression. Players have started to understand these fast-paced affairs better but at the heart of it, you still need to do your basics well. Creativity has a critical role in One-day cricket but it must stem from sound basic cricketing methods. PTI

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