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World Cup 2011, India preview

Odds on batsmen to deliver in familiar conditions

Sidharth Monga

February 13, 2011

Comments: 73 | Text size: A | A

A home World Cup always comes with unreal expectations from an Indian side. Twice they have lost in home semi-finals. The crowd reaction to the second of those leaves no doubt as to what a home World Cup means to India. The Indian crowds just don't contemplate anything less than the title win.

While they can try and not let such unreasonable expectations affect their mindset, it will still be difficult to not be the centre of attention in the lead-up to the World Cup. Hosts, No. 1 Test side, financial powerhouse of cricket, coming off a disastrous campaign four years ago. Then there is a small matter of Sachin Tendulkar, who has spent 21 years in international cricket carrying such unreal expectations. He has spoken of how desperate he is to have that World Cup in his glorious trophy cabinet, and this could well be his last shot at it, in front of the home crowd in Mumbai if his side makes it to the final.

India the country doesn't expect anything less. How unreal is it to expect that of their side? Not too unreal, really. They will be one of the expected semi-finalists, and it is highly unlikely they won't make it to the top four in their group of seven. From there on, it is a matter of three good days, and they have enough big players in their side to make that happen. The allrounder, though, will be missing, as will be pyrotechnics in the field. If they do succeed, the success will be based on the confidence in their batting unit to score one more than they concede in the field. With that batting line-up, on subcontinent tracks, odds are about even that they can do it three nights in a row.

World Cup pedigree

Until June 25, 1983, India were nobodies in limited-overs cricket. Since that day, when Kapil Dev's men fashioned India's most famous success till date, they have entered every World Cup with high expectations, and have come close thrice: losing the 2003 final, and two semi-finals at home, in 1987 and 1996. The alternate editions, 1992, 1999, and 2007 have been strictly forgettable. Law of averages would suggest another good campaign in 2011.

Form guide

Leading up to the World Cup, India have played two bilateral series in India, and one in South Africa, looking to forget the dismal showing on the seaming tracks in the tri-series in Dambulla. The three-match series against Australia hardly took off, thanks to rain, but India won the only match possible. New Zealand they whitewashed, and that result was achieved by a squad minus the big stars that are expected to play in the World Cup. The main players had travelled early to South Africa, to make up for a cramped schedule. In South Africa, again an injury-hit side competed well, but was unable to capitalize on the 2-1 lead (that, by the way, is one win fewer than they had managed against South Africa in South Africa until then).

Expert eye

Sanjay Manjrekar: The conditions in the subcontinent, India in particular, are going to be totally in favour of batsmen, so teams with strong batting line-ups will have a natural advantage. Fielding, running between the wickets and great bowling attacks will matter, but not as much as depth in batting - which India have. If India's bowlers bowl even reasonably, Indian batsmen will win matches. Watch out for Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni.

Where they're likely to finish

Three knockout matches make this an unpredictable World Cup, but India look good to make it to the semi-finals at least.

Watchability

The star-studded batting line-up. Picture this: Tendulkar and Sehwag opening the innings, followed by Gautam Gambhir, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Raina and Yusuf Pathan. A line-up that might leave out the No. 2 batsman in ICC rankings, Virat Kohli. The bowlers are well and truly dark horses, and the fielders steady at best.

Key players
In 2010 Sachin Tendulkar batted as well as he ever has, his batting at a level higher than we would have imagined even of him. He is now adept at scoring fast without taking risks, something India will rely on, not least in the big matches.

Suresh Raina goes into this World Cup with Yuvraj-like expectations of him. The tracks will be to his liking. He has spent a year or so in the finisher role; and his natural shots go to unusual areas, which unsettles opposition plans. Just as importantly, he will be the big athletic presence in the field. Personally too, this will be a crucial tournament for Raina after his failures in South Africa.

Zaheer Khan will have the most painful memories of the heartbreak in 2003. Having put Australia in, his first over, nervous, wayward, set the tone for a one-sided defeat. Eight years later, he is a completely different bowler, one of the sharpest bowling brains in the world, and a nemesis for the same Australian side. He will want to be fit, he will want to be strong, he will want to carry India's weaker suit. As with Tendulkar, this might be his last chance too.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 73 
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Posted by Manasvi on (February 15, 2011, 0:37 GMT)

@VickGower - It was even worse in 2003 when the batsmen were so horrible during the NZ tour. But they pulled their socks up and everyone except Dinesh Mongia at 7 contributed at least 1-2 crucial innings.

Posted by Gower on (February 14, 2011, 16:11 GMT)

"The star-studded batting line-up. Picture this: Tendulkar and Sehwag opening the innings, followed by Gautam Gambhir, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Raina and Yusuf Pathan." Laugh Out Loud. Tendulkar hasn't played ODI cricket in months; Sehwag has a bad shoulder; Gambhir has been more injured than healthy; Dhoni is out of form; Yuvraj - when was he last in form?; Raina?!! (does anyone even bother watching cricket before analyzing?). That leaves Yusuf Pathan and Virat Kohli as somewhat known quantities. Indian bowlers better show up.

Posted by Mradul on (February 14, 2011, 14:29 GMT)

Hard to admit it but Yuvi does not deserve a place in the side on his current form and that too on the expense of Kohli or Raina. I would definitely like to see both Kohli and Raina play in most matches. Gambhir too is a big worry, somehow i don't see him setting WC blaze, we have atleast 1 weakling here (Gambhir or Yuvi whoever plays). Nehra does not look good enough to play in WC, Zak, Sree, Bhajji and Munaf or Zak, Sree, Chawla and Bhajji shud be our bowling combination. I have high hopes from Pathan though, he really looks like an improved and confidant player, i have a feeling that he will Win us atleast 1-2 games on his won in this WC. Wishing India all the very best and hope to see you guys playing in Mumbai in the Grand Finale...

Posted by Ashok on (February 14, 2011, 14:28 GMT)

India appears to be relying too much on Sehwag, Tendulkar, Gambhir & Kohli in top 4 spots. Only Pathan in the lower order is delivering. Yuvraj & Dhoni need to step up their batting. These 2 are consistently failing which does auger well. Hopefully when the matches start the openers will give India a great flying start by playing at least 15 overs. I personally like to see Yuvraj delivering are pusjed lower down in the batting order. Sending him at #4 with no production is poor. Kohli will bat at 4, Dhoni should go up at 5 followed by Pathan & Yuvraj. It is risky sending Yuvraj at 4 and suddenly getting a downer with no production from him. Both Yuvraj & Pathan are great hitters but fail when promoted in batting order. Pathan in the recent matches has played better than Yuvraj and has produced. He can even go #5. Dhoni needs to weigh thei carefully.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 14, 2011, 13:55 GMT)

Our batting was completely screwed up against Aus. It will bounce back against NZ,but I seriously doubt if it is that good,that it can fetch us the Cup. Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni ought to fire. OR is this the silence before the storm ?

Posted by ashok on (February 14, 2011, 13:21 GMT)

Is it the same Yuvraj who smashed Broad's full toss for point-over six ? Nehra better be replaced by Sreesanth. Sreesanth is better able to swing the ball atleast. Raina is becoming another Yuvraj Singh is going out of form... But its good that Ashwin can Step up in lower order batting, just like Yardy(Eng)/Lee (Aus)...

Posted by ashok on (February 14, 2011, 12:56 GMT)

Best combination is to rotate 4 players: Fixed - Viru, Sachin, Dhoni, Yusuf, Ashwin, Zak, Nehra --- 7 players 1Rotate - Bajji - Chawla ---1 player 2Rotate - Munaf - Sreesanth ---1 player 3Rotate - Yuvraj - Raina - Virat --2 players Slow Turning pitch - Chawla - Sreesanth - Yuvraj - Virat Batting Pitch - Bajji - Munaf - Raina - Yuvraj Bouncy Pitch - Bajji - Sreesanth - Yuvi - Virat

Posted by Lalith on (February 14, 2011, 12:20 GMT)

All Aussies got really warmed up until 21 over of the second innings. Then they were freezed by Bajan & Chawla.

Posted by MOHAMMED on (February 14, 2011, 12:14 GMT)

Virat no 2 batsman in ICC ranking & currently inform batsman & excellent fielder. We want him in playing Xl..... Players like( Yuvi/Gambhir/Raina) can sit out depending on the condition & opponents strength.......Advance wishes to all our indian players to perform well in WC 2011......

Posted by Manesh on (February 14, 2011, 12:06 GMT)

@sabee66 hard to digest even the warm up game loss..huh? :P

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