Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has always guided team India through his valuable timely advice. Right now, just before the start of the World Cup, India needed moral support especially after having a miserable recent away tour in Australia. Dada has again stood up for MS Dhoni’s men. Indian Team, in fact look shaky just before the World Cup on account of Injuries of many cricketers and in wake of the inconsistent bowling attack.
But now Dada, the former India captain who led team India to the World Cup final in 2003, is not at all worried about the team’s current lack of form, although he has shown concern over the fitness issues in the team. Ganguly, who will be leaving for Australia next week to join the commentary team, expressed his opinion about India’s chances in an exclusive chat with TOI at his Behala residence on February 5th.
How do you assess India’s chances in the upcoming World Cup?
Writing off India on the basis of their below-par show in Tests and the tri-series would be a knee-jerk reaction. It does not do justice to the team. I think our boys will prove a lot of people wrong in the coming days. I expect them to make the semifinals. Thereafter, it is a question of having two good matches.
What makes you so optimistic about India’s chances?
I think we are a much better side in limited-overs cricket and our record in the World Cup is good. We have enough depth in the squad, and having spent over two months in Australia, our boys are now quite used to the conditions. Like India, Australia too have always been very tough to beat in home conditions. Let us not forget that India will not be playing only against Australia in the World Cup. In fact, they are not even in our group. Playing against other teams does not guarantee success, but I am sure our boys will be up for it.
Are you not worried about the lack of balance in the Indian line-up?
I think there is still some uncertainty about the No 7 spot. I expect Stuart Binny to play most of the matches as the third medium-pace option. Then there is Ravindra Jadeja. I also expect R Ashwin to play a significant role at some stage.
For all the talent we have in batting, our young guns have not really fired. Does that worry you?
I expect them to rise to the occasion. A lot will depend on captain Dhoni. His form with the bat and his leadership will be the key for India. The team needs Dhoni to have a very good World Cup.
Is there a case for Dhoni to bat higher up the order?
If Virat Kohli bats at No 4, it makes no sense for Dhoni to bat at No 5. It also will depend on match situations, I guess. The batting order, more or less, looks settled.
Do you believe that bowling remains India’s biggest worry?
Yes, I think a lot depends on the fitness of Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The team management must take a call on these two after our first warm-up game against Australia [Feb 8]. If they are not fit, replacements must be called in at the earliest. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami have bowled a lot in the last two months and have been rightly given a rest before India’s first match.
How important will be the opener against Pakistan, given the usual hype surrounding this clash?
Historically, India have never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup and I expect this trend to continue. If India start on a winning note, the pressure and negativity will ease off.
Is there too much hue and cry about the ‘new’ ODI rules – two new balls and field restrictions?
They have been in place for well over a year now and all teams must have got used to it. These rules are tough on subcontinent teams, which rely more on spinners. With the field being up even after 15-20 overs, batsmen have been able to hit boundaries at will in the middle overs. The spurt in big totals is a direct fallout of that. As of now, teams have to live with that.
Who are your picks for the semifinals?
I believe India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will make the final four.