Former Test captain Anil Kumble believes that India has is brightest chance in years of winning the World Cup, but that fitness issues in the current team would be the only impediment to breaking India's 28-year-old World Cup jinx.
“My only concern is the fitness of the guys. If they can last the entire tournament without injuries, we could certainly regain the Cup," Kumble told PTI in an interview ahead of the February 19 to March 2 mega-event to be held in the sub-continent.
Kumble said along with India, defending champions Australia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka are the other favourites for the coveted trophy. Kumble considered the advantages that India has to win back the title, last won by Kapil"s Devils in 1983.
“We have lot of advantages going into the tournament. The form of the players is encouraging. The quality of players is good. There are some all—rounders as well who can chip in with both bat and ball," emphasised Kumble, who was part of the Indian World Cup campaigns in 1996 (at home), 1999 (England), 2003 (South Africa) and 2007 (West Indies).
India"s most successful bowler feels the sub-continental flat tracks would be of great advantage to India.
“Besides the form and quality of players, the pitches would suit our game. We know our conditions too well. We know what we can expect," said Kumble, who as president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, has dedicated his time for the conduct of the World Cup matches in the City.
Talking about the disappointment of losing the 1996 semifinals and the 2003 finals, Kumble said: “We came very close to winning. It was disappointing that we could not get to do what we were capable as a team. Each time we got close and lost, we knew we had to wait for a long time as the World Cup is played only once in four years."
Asked if Sachin Tendulkar, who will be playing his sixth successive World Cup, will be under pressure to deliver in front of the home crowd, Kumble said: “He has been around for 21 years. So there is no question of him being under pressure."
“He is playing at his best that I have seen. He has looked relaxed in all the matches that I have watched. If he plays the World Cup like any other ODI, he should be scoring lots of runs," said Kumble.
When India came close to winning the title but lost in the finals of 2003, Kumble said Tendulkar, like the rest of the team, was terribly disappointed.
“Considering that we came very close to winning in 2003, I am sure Sachin will be looking forward to winning the one trophy that has eluded him. The entire team will also be striving hard to win back the Cup after five attempts (since 1983).
Kumble said the expectations will be high as the entire nation will be looking up to the players to win the title.
“The expectations will be there as everyone would want the team to triumph. But the players have the experience to cope with it," he said.
Aside from the top teams, Kumble felt Pakistan would be the surprise package.
“Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka will be front runners for the title along with India. But we cannot underestimate Pakistan, as you never know what they could do.
They are an unpredictable side," said Kumble.
Kumble"s newly-elected committee has ensured that the players are given facilities that they richly deserve.
The dressing rooms have been refurbished. The open-air media box has been airconditioned. The entire Chinnaswamy stadium, which will host five World Cup matches, besides two warm-up games, has been given a fresh coat of paint.
“The players deserve the best. Without them there would be no stadia, no crowd," said Kumble.