The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indians have to show team spirit, passion
An emphatic win against Holland is necessary to help Sourav & Co. come out of the New Zealand nightmare

Indians will have to be passionate and play as a team (a feature rarely seen in the past outfits) to achieve their goal of a second World Cup triumph. History tells us that the previous seven World Cup winners were teams with flair and passion which developed a strong bond during the course of the tournament.

Imran Khan perhaps had to work harder than most to get his young side over the line in 1992 in Australia. India have managed it before as underdogs in 1983 when they upset Clive Lloyd’s marvellous West Indian team in the final.

The most important task for Sourav Ganguly and John Wright over the next six weeks will be to keep the squad happy and relaxed and play the type of cricket we know they are capable of.

Possibly one of the most important games they play will be the opener against one of the lesser lights of the tournament, Holland, on February 12. The Dutchmen are not expected to beat any of their more fancied opponents, and it is a must-win game for India.

How well India play in this game could decide the pattern of their Cup campaign. Coming off a disturbing series loss in New Zealand, the team needs to establish some equilibrium quickly and the match with Holland will provide an ideal opportunity.

Not only must they win, but they must do it in an imperious fashion. It would be best for India to be able to bat first and set up a huge total with as many batsmen getting some time in the middle as possible. To follow this up with a clinical bowling performance and an energetic fielding display would just be just what the doctor and, no doubt, the coach ordered.

Fitness will be an important part of the winning teams’ armoury and John Wright would do well to have some of the guys, specially the older ones, to work on this aspect.

I remember taking a team to New Zealand leading up to the centenary Test many years ago, deciding that fitness would be an important part of our success on that tour and the subsequent centenary Test back in Melbourne.

Many of our players complained of the extra work-load early on the tour but by the end of the trip, we were fielding much better and many of the guys turned in with career-best performances. Doug Walters scored his only double century on that tour and Gary Gilmour scored his only century in a record breaking partnership with Walters that helped us clinch the series.

Some of the senior Indian players go into this tournament without a great deal of good form recently. How they deal with this will have a big effect on the team’s show. Most of the younger players will look to the experience of Sourav, Tendulkar, Dravid, Srinath and Kumble to guide them through the gruelling format of the next few weeks. Living out of a suitcase far away from family and friends can be the biggest test for any international cricketer, so success early in the campaign will be essential for all teams.

Australia struggled for much of the early stages of the 1999 World Cup, but it was the experience and the resilience of the experienced campaigners which got them through to the Super Six stage. Then the depth of talent and an unshakeable belief in themselves got them through the tough matches with South Africa before they overwhelmed Pakistan in the final.

If India are to reverse the recent form slump it will require the experienced players to put the New Zealand nightmare behind them and start emphatically against Holland. It is dangerous to look too far forward in any World Cup tournament or take any opponent for granted. Australia made this mistake against Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge in 1983 and the West Indies did the same against Kenya in Pune in 1996. And what heavy prices they had to pay!

The brains trust of the Indian party must have their players focussed for the Holland game and set a standard for the series. If they intend to go in with seven batsmen and only four front-line bowlers, as they have done recently, they need to get the right combination at the outset and start working on the game plan they intend to use. (PTI)

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