With the 2015 cricket World Cup getting underway today, former cricketers, selectors, commentators and fans — about their memories of the previous tournaments, India’s chances of winning the Cup this time and the magnitude of the game that is just about to begin.
Favourite WC moment
For former cricketer Chandu Borde, who was one of the selectors of the 1983 WC team, the stunning catch Kapil Dev took on the midwicket to get rid of Viv Richards, is one moment that turned the course of the tournament.
Madan Lal, who was part of the victorious team, says receiving a medal at the Lord’s balcony after the win, returning home to roads filled with people too eager to welcome them and meeting the Prime Minister, the President and a host of other dignitaries are the memories that he will always treasure.
“After India’s win, a whole new world opened up for cricket. People sat up and took notice. Teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan realised that if India could do it, so could they, which they eventually did,” he said.
Yuvraj Singh’s performance against Australia in the last WC stands out for right-arm medium pace bowler Sandeep Sharma, who has represented India at two Under-19 World Cups -- 2010 and 2012 -- and currently plays for Kings XI Punjab.
Mohinder Amarnath, former cricketer and cricket analyst, felt great after the ’83 win, but post winning, according to him, was even more enjoyable. “We were the underdogs and were thrilled to have achieved as a team what we had all dreamt of achieving one day. I was happy to have contributed my bit,” said Amarnath, who was adjudged Man of the Match in the finals.
Former test player and commentator Arun Lal will remember Dhoni finishing the finals of the 2011 WC with a six and bringing the Cup home a second time.
Punjab Ranji team manager Sushil Kapoor has been mentoring cricket players for generations now. It was a heartfelt moment for him when Kapil Dev, whom he had mentored since the former captain was in school, lifted the 1983 Cup, beating all odds.
“When the team returned from England in July 1983, their first halt was in Mumbai where they did the victory lap at the Wankhede. I had tea and snacks with the team just before they made their public appearance. I was there on the dais when Kapil lifted the Cup once again for all Indians to see.”
He also has fond memories of the WC-2011 semifinals played in Mohali. “It was a sight to behold. Any match between India and Pakistan is never less than a final. The Prime Ministers of the two countries were in attendance along with the who’s who of politics and Bollywood. It was a memorable win,” he said.
Tilak Pattnaik, a 27-year-old development professional with a sustainability think-tank based in Delhi, can never forget Ashish Nehra taking six wickets against England during a 2003 WC match in South Africa. “I have never seen a player perform so well. It is one of the best WC performances till date. Despite having an ankle injury, he bowled the 10 overs outstandingly,” he said.
For Preet Pasricha, an assistant manager at Teleperformance, Indore, watching Sachin Tendulkar celebrating on the shoulders of his teammates post the 2011-WC win, is “too good a memory to forget.”
Will India be third-time lucky?
Harmanpreet Kaur, former captain of India’s national women’s team, believes one cannot take the performance of any team for granted. “India has been going through a rough patch but the recent win against Afghanistan will do their morale a world of good. That the bowlers are not able to get the initial wickets can be a cause of concern,” she said.
Sandeep Sharma really wants India to win this time too. “The team should learn from the highs and lows it has experienced in the recently-concluded Australia-India-England tri-series,” he said.
For Arun Lal, the WC is all about expecting the unexpected. “One can never be sure of what to expect next, but chances look bright for Australia and New Zealand. India’s batting lineup is also pretty strong. All they need to do is focus on their bowling,” said the former cricketer.
Though Borde agrees India is one of the contenders, he predicts either Australia or New Zealand lifting the Cup this time. “They are playing on their own soil, have a lot more experience on those grounds and know the conditions better,” he said, adding, “The combination of experienced players and fresh talent that the present Indian team has will work in their favour. We are still revelling in the glory of winning the last WC. So the players should not be under pressure and should just perform.”
As much as Madan Lal would like to see India win, he believes England has a balanced team and can prove to be the dark horse. “Every team has a player that can sail them through but the team that is able to sustain its mental toughness throughout the tournament gets to take the Cup home,” he said.
The former cricketer thinks it to be unfair to compare the present team with the one that won the 2011 WC. “The fact that we won is great but it does not mean the same team continues to play for the next 25 years. The current team is young and energetic. With players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, I think we stand a fair chance,” he said.
Dishant Yagnik, a team member of Rajasthan Royals, said, “India will make it to the semi-finals. We don’t have enough good bowlers but India does well in big tournaments. So I am hopeful.”
Tilak does not think India stand a chance. “The team is inexperienced, plus they are not high on morale. They have been in Australia for some time now but haven’t done well. We do not have bowlers who can restrict the opponent to a modest target and our batsmen do not have a great record of playing on the Australian soil,” he said.
Preet Pasricha agrees. “My heart goes out for India but mind does not. We do not have the required pace attack. Zaheer Khan will be missed. So will be Yuvraj. Just good batting is not enough to win the tournament. You also need to take 10 wickets,” he said.
Sushil Kapoor fondly recalled, “Dhoni made his first foray in Chandigarh and had scored a century then. We knew then that he was here to stay. He is a match winner. In him we have a mature leader for a young team. He has withered many a storm. The team is in safe hands.”
Madan Lal agrees. “Dhoni is a brilliant captain and an outstanding player. He can do wonders as he is one of the best in business,” he said.
Siddharth Saraf, who has played Ranji Trophy from Rajasthan, said, “Dhoni and Kohli are all we have. They need to be on the crease to enable India build a good score.”
With a number of talented players in action, one hopes the best team comes out trumps.
Players to watch out for
AB de Villiers
Teams in with a chance