ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
World Cup 2011, India preview
Odds on batsmen to deliver in familiar conditions
February 13, 2011
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.