The Cricket World Cup is jinxed as no nation hosting it has ever won the title. Though Sri Lanka (as a third co-host) won the 1996 World Cup, experts assert that Islanders were not the main hosts as the bulk of the matches were played in India and the tournament was totally financed by the BCCI and sponsored by the Indian companies.
The million-dollar question being asked by the cricket buffs is, will Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys will break this jinx and bring back the coveted trophy, which the country won way back in the 1983? The expectations from Dhoni’s men are very high and there are valid reasons for that. Indian team is in good form. Their performance in 2010 has been very encouraging; they have beaten almost all the teams, they played against recording very convincing victories.
Though Indians lost the ODI series against South Africa but they returned home with their reputation intact. The Indian showing in the South Africa in ODI was commendable because they were without Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and mid way through even injured Tendulkar returned home, but still they came very near to upset the hosts.
The line-up which includes Tendulkar, Yusuf Pathan, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj and Virat Kohli, makes India most favourite team for this World Cup.
Despite India being considered to be the hot favourite, most of the observers of the game agree that it is going to be the most open tournament this time around. India faces Bangladesh in their opener and it is going to be tough. In 2007, the former champions had failed to make it to the super league as they were stunned by their eastern neighbours. Indians at that time underestimated their rivals and paid the price. This time they will have to be extra cautious because Bangladesh team is in good nick. They have tasted victories, having beaten higher ranked team like New Zealand.
Playing before the home crowd will give Bangladesh players extra motivation and Indians will be that much under pressure. A convincing win in the opener will give a head start to India’s World Cup campaign. Any other result will prove disastrous for Dhoni’s men in this 46-day-long tournament.
Former Captain Bishan Singh Bedi feels: “Expectations have always been high after the 1983 win but this World Cup is open. Any side, India, South Africa, Australia or even England, can win the trophy. Sri Lanka always are a contender. So, all the teams would be under a lot of pressure.”
He also had different take on the Indian team.
According to the legendary spinner the team has “average bowling and not so impressive fielding and that will put pressure on the batsmen”.
Bedi was not satisfied with the selection of the team. “One spinner is too many (in the conditions). I don’t think this kid Piyush Chawla will get to play. And look at the fast bowling…they are not outstanding bowlers. Ashish Nehra is not the bowler he was in 2003. Zaheer and Praveen are struggling. Bowling is definitely a weak link,” Bedi said and added: “I would have picked Sreesanth in place of Nehra since he is a very fit youngster. And India’s fielding is poorer. The batsmen will have to do a hell lot of job to make up for the average bowling and poor fielding.”
Bedi known for his forthright view felt that reasons for India’s success in 1983 was that almost all the players were brilliant fielders. “Comparison won’t be fair. At that time India had nothing to lose but one thing I would like to say is that players such as Roger Binny, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath and Sandip Patil, they were all good fielders. Fielding can win you matches but we have ignored this aspect this time around,” he felt.
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN LEFT TO SACHIN TO PICK HIS OWN BATTING ORDER—Chappell
It was not only defeats at the hands of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on the field which led to India’s early exit from the last edition of the World Cup, there were also the off-field happenings, which had demoralising effect on the team’s performance.
One of the dressing room dramas involved two high-profile characters—Sachin Tendulkar and Coach Greg Chappell—spelled the doom for the team. Though Chappell was made to resign soon after the World Cup debacle, it is now that former Australian great has admitted that he virtually forced Sachin to change his batting order and that created the entire storm.
Four years down the line, Chappell, now an Australian selector, is much wiser. He is candid enough to admit that he should have handled Tendulkar differently. Chappell wanted Sachin to bat in the middle order but the little master wanted to keep his place in the top order during India’s disastrous campaign in the Caribbean World Cup. In a book on Sachin titled SACH, written by noted cricket writer Gautam Bhattacharya, Chappell recalls the sequence of events which led to the confrontation.
Here is what the Australian told Gautam: “At the outset let me clarify I never ever doubted Sachin Tendulkar’s commitment to the side. The only time I talked about him was in relation to the team’s World Cup venture. If you talk about a breakdown in relations, that possibly happened only around this time. Basically we differed on his batting order in the West Indies,” Chappell said.
The Coach felt that conditions in the West Indies demanded a power-hitter in the middle order and the choice was between Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar. Since the Delhi batsman did not agree to bat down the order, little master was asked to do the job. He agreed but reluctantly.
“It wasn’t just me alone. Rahul Dravid was also involved in the thinking, which felt the matches were going to get decided in those middle overs and you needed the brilliance of either a Sachin or Sehwag to play in that position,” Chappell disclosed. “The Delhi opener didn’t seem very keen. So we sat down with Sachin who in any case was the first priority. We put it down to him and he seemed reluctant. He thought top-of-the-order was the best place for him as it has always been. But we were still in the discussion as Rahul and I were convinced no other batsman in the team would be able to do it. Sachin finally agreed. Next day he got back to Rahul. Though he made it known that he was not happy doing it. He felt that his reputation demanded two places higher in the order,” he added. Chappell said he would have given the same suggestions but would have allowed Sachin to decide.
“…that experience has taught me a lesson. Today confronted with a similar situation I would still put the idea across to him and explain. But if he shows any kind of discomfort I won’t push. I would let him decide,” he said.
After the World Cup Tendulkar in an interview to a daily said he was hurt by the fact that his commitment to the team was questioned by Chappell. However the Coach asserted that he patched up with Sachin and ‘we parted ways amicably’.
“With Sachin, I later on had a face-to-face chat. There was an issue about a write-up, which had come out in the Times of India. We spoke the next day and I would like to believe parted on good terms. As I said earlier the only disagreement we had was over his place in the batting order which now is a thing of the past,” Chappell said.
Chappell said he admires Sachin for the way he handles expectations of over a billion fans. “During my years as the Indian Coach how people vied for a minute’s attention from him irrespective of wherever he went! Emotionally and physically, it must be very draining to cope up with that sort of attention day in and day out. But he has handled it remarkably well.
“He must be the most single-handed devotee cricket has ever seen. Cricket has taken up so much of his life that at times you would wonder what is he going to do once he gives up the game!” he said.
Chappell claimed that much before the World Cup, he had made up his mind to quit as Coach and the reason was clash of ideas with the BCCI. “I had presented the BCCI my road-map for the project Commitment to Excellence and they approved it. Yet there was a clear philosophical clash as to which direction the group needed to go. I for one wasn’t prepared to compromise. If I had conceded then there would be no fight,” he said: “But I wanted to remain true to my beliefs and cricketing thought’s bottom-line, it wasn’t going anywhere and whatever I had set out to do remained unattainable. That is why I decided to quit which was much before the World Cup.”
“So to set the record straight once again Sachin’s statement in the press against me had nothing to do with my discontinuing as the Coach. As I said earlier we had parted on good terms,” he said.
Bedi also said the Indian team should do everything to win the coveted trophy for Sachin Tendulkar, who is perhaps playing in his last World Cup. “Let’s hope that the players deliver for the sake of Tendulkar. For Tendulkar alone, this Cup should come to India. This boy has done and achieved so much and he deserves to be known as a World Cup winning player as well,” he said.
According to Bedi the selectors have made a mistake by not picking good young batsmen like Manish Pandey. “And the players that we have are all on radar of the opponents. They could have picked an unknown commodity (as a surprise package). I would have gone for Manish Pandey. He is a fantastic one-day batsman and a swift fielder. ODI cricket is all about athleticism and most of the cricketers in the current team are not,” Bedi said.
About Yusuf Pathan, Bedi said: “If you put him under a lot of pressure, he will not be able to deliver. You are not always sure about him. Like him, a lot of Indian players are playing their first World Cup and it is not easy.” On the other hand, member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad Kirti Azad feels that the team for this edition of the Cup is experienced and balanced side, and wants that Dhoni and his men should focus, to win the title, just like Arjuna had done to shoot at the eye of a fish.
“You cannot compare today’s side with that of 1983 World Cup team because when we won it we had not collectively played the same number of matches Virender Sehwag has played. But there is one similarity in the two teams—that is captain. Kapil had always wanted to play for a win and I see the same instinct in Dhoni, both leads from the front. The biggest plus point of this team is the balance and experience. This team has many match-winners but I feel a lot will depend on Sachin Tendulkar. His experience of the last five World Cups will come handy on him. His presence lifts the confidence of other players. So I am saying India are the favourites,” he said adding the side has the “killer instinct”.
“The team had not accepted defeat till the end in the ODI series in South Africa. This shows that the team has the killer instinct. All the players are making contributions to the team cause and except for the wicket-keeping slot we have an alternative player to take place. Three seamer and one spinner formula would be the right thing. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Sehwag and even Tendulkar can take the responsibility of the fifth bowler,” he said.
Kirti was of the view that not many expected that India will win in 1983, but this time people have huge expectations from the Indian side under Dhoni. Besides India, five other teams—Australia, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa—can reach the semi-finals. “You cannot underestimate Australia. By defeating England 6-1 in the ODI series they have shown. They are still a good team in limited overs cricket. England have good match-winners while Sri Lanka always do well on subcontinental pitches. Pakistan is dark horse. Australia made history by winning last three edition of the World Cup, but this time the champions will find it hard to retain the title. The Aussies have lost the aura of invincibility and now other teams are no longer overawed by them. Though after losing the ashes, they made a stunning come back walloping England 6-1, they will find it tough this time in the subcontinent,” said Kirti.
Bangladesh is a co-host of this edition. They have produce upsets in earlier edition of this event but still are not the favourites. West Indies winner of first two editions seemed to have forgotten the art of winning. Though they have good all-rounder like Ramesh Sarwan and Chris Gayle still they will need Herculean’s effort to regain the Cup. Zimbabwe is famous for creating upsets in the world. Having twice beaten India and also accounted for Australia but they will remain as one of the minnows of the World Cup.
England after winning ashes were reduced to asheds by the Australians, who trashed them 1-6 in the ODI series. Injury-prone England side will be depending heavily around Andrew Struass and Kevin Pietersen performances, which are quite low prolific on these subcontinent pitches and they lack quality spinner in their team. Sri Lanka is a strong contender, they know how to deal with pressure situation in the subcontinent. Sangakara’s men are famous for their consistent performance in the fielding department.
Pakistan was co-host of the event before being pulled out by ICC because of security measures with, Butt, Asif and Aamir out of the game for next five to seven years, will be depending on master blaster Shahid Afridi. It is bit hard to predict anything about this inconsistent team.
New Zealand are going through a bad patch. After losing to Bangladesh and India at subcontinent pitches, they lost to Pakistan at home. Winning World Cup is going to be a distant dream for the snowing in the summer for them. South Africa is the team to watch. They have everything in every department which is needed to win the trophy. However, it remains to be seen that if Smith and company will be able to shake off the chokers tag.
Meanwhile there is an interesting news from the ICC. Its Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat is in favour of legalisation of sports gambling in India while staying optimistic of a corruption-free World Cup in the subcontinent. Lorgat and his colleagues in the ICC have held discussions about urging the Indian government to legalise cricket gambling, according to a report in The National newspaper. “I agree with the notion that if it is regulated it is a lot better than if it is not regulated,” Lorgat was quoted as saying: “We have made inquiries, and these are the things we are working towards.”
For want of concrete figures, media reports claim an India-Pakistan one-day international draws bets worth $20 million through an illegal syndicate of which Mumbai is considered the hub.
Lorgat, however, is confident that the Feb 19-April 2 World Cup, which India co-hosts along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, would be free of corruption with ICC’s anti-corruption unit bolstering up its presence.
By Harpal Singh Bedi
Abhishek please make this article in BOX
INDIAN SUBCONTINENT TO HOST EVERY THIRD CRICKET WORLD CUP
Australia-New Zealand (Co-host of the 5th edition in 1992) were all set to hold the 10th World Cup but at the end “money talked” and India (along with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) were allotted the prestigious tournament for the third time.
India, co-host of the 1987 and 1996 World Cups, walloped the Australia-New Zealand’s bid “Beyond Boundaries” 7-3 even after submitting their bid rather late. Of greater significance, was the fact that the ICC agreed that every third World Cup will be held in the Indian subcontinent, the region that controls the sport’s economics. ICC wanted to rotate World Cup venues between major cricket playing nations to increase the base of the Game. The World Cups have been hosted by England (Three times 1975, 1979, 1983), India/Pakistan 1987, Australia/New Zealand 1992, India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka 1996, England (UK, Netherlands) 1999, South Africa (Zimbabwe, Kenya) 2003, West Indies 2007.
For the 2011 World Cup Australia/New Zealand were a strong contender ahead of India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka/Bangladesh because they had not hosted a World Cup since 1992. Australia and New Zealand made their bid well before the last day March 1, and it was assumed that the World Cup will be held down under before India spoiled their party. Cricket Australia and New Zealand were banking on the fact that they had the superior venues/infrastructure and their bid had the complete support of the respective governments on tax and customs issues during the tournament.
The New Zealand government had also promised that Zimbabwe would be allowed to compete in the tournament. To add to that former West Indies Captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul also endorsed the bid. ICC President Ehsan Mani also raised their hopes when he said that late presentation by the Asian block had harmed the subcontinent’s cause. However, the Australians underestimated the financial clout of the BCCI.
Just as Indian Olympic Association (IOA) “promised moon” and freebies to the participating countries, while making the bid for the Commonwealth Games way back in 2003 in Jamaica and piped Canada, BCCI raised the stakes so high that Australia and New Zealand just could not match it.
It was proved when the time came to vote, Asia won the hosting rights by seven votes to three. The numbers were clearly against Australia and New Zealand, who needed the mandatory support of seven of the 10 Test-playing nations for their bid to succeed.
With the four Asian nations having joined hands, Australia and New Zealand could, at best, have garnered six votes between themselves. But they could have ensured the vote be postponed to a later date had they succeeded in roping in South Africa, Zimbabwe and the West Indies along with their trusted backer England.
In the end, only England supported the trans-Tasman bid as the Asians first sealed the South African and Zimbabwe votes and then won over the West Indies by promising to organise fund-raising events during 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.
However, Chairman of the Monitoring Committee of the Asian bid, IS Bindra, rest all the speculations to rest when he admitted that it was their promise of extra profits in the region of US $400 million that swung the vote, that there “was no quid pro quo for their support”, and that playing the West Indies had “nothing to do with the World Cup bid” and also added: “We only had to stress that cricket is a religion in our part of the world, everything else is secondary. We are confident 2011 will represent a new landmark as a cricketing and sporting milestone. The cricket World Cup will be as big as the one for football.”
The result came as a boost to the Asian countries which had all along wanted that every third edition of the World Cup should be held in the sub-continent since it accounted for four of the 10 Test-playing nations. Australia-New Zealand will now host the World Cup in 2015 and England in 2019.
Late in 2007, the four host nations agreed upon a revised format for the 2011 World Cup identical to the 1996 World Cup, the only change being the no. of teams as it was 12 in 1996 and 14 in 2011. The first round of the tournament will be a round-robin in which the 14 teams are divided into 2 groups of 7 teams each. The 7 teams play each other once with the top 4 from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.
The format ensures that each team gets to play a minimum of 6 matches even if they are ruled out of the tournament due to early defeats. However in a far reaching development Pakistan was stripped of its rights as co-host of the 2011 World Cup by the ICC on April 17, 2009 due to “uncertain security situation” prevailling in the country.
The PCB hit back saying it will not play in India in the World Cup if they are asked to play in India.
It is estimated that the PCB will lose $10.5 million due to the tournament being taken away from them.