Kirsten sets sights on No. 1 ranking
India's coach Gary Kirsten has said being the best in the world is high on the team's list of targets for the next eight months. India go into the Compaq Cup on the back of five consecutive bilateral ODI series wins and a clean sweep in Sri Lanka will catapult them to the top of the ICC one-day rankings.
Kirsten has reason to be optimistic as three of those five recent series wins have come against their two opponents in the tri-series - Sri Lanka and New Zealand. India have defeated Sri Lanka away twice in the past two years and also won the ODI series in New Zealand earlier this year.
"We have set our goals," Kirsten said, ahead of the team's departure for Sri Lanka. "One of them is to be the best cricket team in the world. We are headed that way and we are very excited. We know we have to perform well as we continue the quest to be the best. We won the last two series in Sri Lanka and we are confident. But we think ahead and don't harp on the results of the past.
"We have got a good batting line-up which is quite flexible in the middle. We would like to mix it up during the series. We have got a very good run in one-day cricket. We have got good depth in the side and the younger players have proved themselves."
Kirsten said the team would have to deal with the "huge" loss of not having explosive opener Virender Sehwag, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury. However, he was non-committal about who would partner Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order.
"We are not sure about the combination," he said. "We will decide on the day of the game. But obviously missing Sehwag is huge. He is a high quality player and any team would love to have him in the mix. But we have got a lot of depth in the team."
Kirsten was also excited about Rahul Dravid's return to the team after close to two years. "It's great to have him. With the sort of experience he brings, it's going to help the team. It's great."
The players enjoyed a welcome break after a gruelling first half of the year and Kirsten said having the BCCI Corporate Trophy just before the tri-series would ensure the players don't turn up rusty in Sri Lanka.
"I think it was great to have a six-week break followed by the Corporate Trophy," Kirsten said. "It gave the players games before a big series. We might have been a bit rusty but the Corporate Trophy has helped."
He added on arrival in Colombo that the team still needed sufficient practice under lights. "The period of success we've had in the past, we attribute to our preparation," he said. "The guys have played some cricket, but we felt we had just two days before the first game, and we needed two days of practice. It was good to get out, and good to practice under lights. We know conditions can be a little different under lights."
India play their first game of the Compaq Cup against New Zealand on Friday, and take on Sri Lanka on Saturday. The final is scheduled for Monday.