The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India have the potential to spring a surprise
- They 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

India could still faze the rest if Sourav Ganguly and his men believe in their own ability as they did in the home series against Australia two years ago.

A billion 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. Only, India need to believe in their own ability.

It was belief which made India turn the corner against Australia in a home series in 2001. They beat Australia because they believed they could do it. They have to apply the same rules over the next few weeks.

India 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 in South Africa. One of the prime reasons for India doing well in recent times is because Sachin Tendulkar has fired. India need to use their best batsman for most periods rather than consign him in 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 Sachin. If India has to feature in the finals of the World Cup, Tendulkar needs to be at the top of the order.

Sourav Ganguly is another key batsman to India’s plans. His mental state is critical. He is a good player, but most good players lose their way mentally. f Sourav could resurrect it quickly, he could inspire a young team and also lead from the front.

Sourav 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 relaxed, confidence could flow and the team would benefit.

As for the ball bouncing and putting him in discomfort, Sourav wouldn’t have to worry on this count in South Africa. He would be able to adjust to bounce in those conditions. India’s young players like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Virender Sehwag who are crucial to the team’s plan. The 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. Sachin is the key, but he would require support from the other end to help India meet their goal.

India don’t have to worry if they are not starting with a quality all-rounder in their line-up. Australia too lack 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-dayer.

India, by the looks of it, should make the Super Six stage. They must ensure to win games which they would normally win. It implies an absolute concentration and runaway wins against the likes of Holland and Namibia. They could then face critical games against England, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

India could also beat Australia, but in my view, the latter are overwhelming favourites to win the Cup. They are the best side in the world, the most committed and talented and without doubt the best prepared for this World Cup.

But then anyone is capable of winning in a two-horse race. If India 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.

Australia are favourites in my book and their main danger would emerge from South Africa. Pakistan have the talent to beat them and India and Sri Lanka would always be in competition.

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