| SACHIN: Our fitness level has improved
Durban: India are fit, settled and balanced and have been improving for the last 20 months in anticipation of the World Cup, top batsman Sachin Tendulkar said on Sunday.
“We’ve been improving for the last 20 months, and we’ve won games in each country we’ve visited,” Sachin said. “Now we’ve got to show more consistency.”
Tendulkar said better selection policies had helped settle the team and had driven India’s progress.
“We have a better balanced side, and the players have been able to put things together when it mattered,” Sachin said. “Our fitness levels have also improved a lot.”
Sachin played down the significance of India’s match against Pakistan in Centurion on March 1, the first time the rivals will clash since the Asia Cup in 2000.
“It’s obviously going to be a big game, but from our team’s point of view it’s just another big game,” Sachin said.
India will play their first warm-up match against a Natal XI in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
A week ahead of the start of the World Cup, the Indian team was looking forward to the tournament with optimism and Sourav Ganguly said the players were “physically and mentally” well-prepared for the challenge.
“It will be a gruelling tournament but we are all physically and mentally fit and looking forward to playing well,” Sourav said at the team’s first press conference after reaching South Africa.
Sourav said despite being in a group that had all the top teams such as Australia, Pakistan and England, the Indian players were determined to do well.
“Whatever happened in New Zealand recently is past and we are now concentrating on the World Cup. We have the players of high calibre to do very well,” he said.
India, World Cup winners in 1983, start their campaign in the tournament with an easy encounter against minnows Holland on February 12.
Asked about his team’s much-anticipated contest against Pakistan, Sourav said: “Pakistan are a good side and we are a good side. Anything could happen on the day.”
Coach John Wright was also confident that the team would do well in the tournament. “I am confident that the players will put on very good performances. We have a good mix of senior and junior players,” Wright said.
Wright said poor pitches had contributed to India’s downfall on their tour of New Zealand this season, where they lost the limited-overs series 2-5.
“We played nine international games in New Zealand, and the side batting last won eight of them,” Wright said. “The wickets have been very good in the net practices we’ve had here.”
Rahul Dravid said he was not burdenened by the dual responsibilities of batting and wicketkeeping and was hoping for a good performance. “It is going to be a long tournament and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, speedster Jawagal Srinath said he would decide on his future after the World Cup. “I have had a very high intensity career and there will be a time when I have to think about my cricketing future. I will have to give it a lot of thought and see what should be done,” Srinath said.
He, however, added: “I am not saying I will retire. All I am saying is that I will speak about my future when the tournament ends”.