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Harbhajan expects the best for Houdini India

A string of Houdini acts has convinced Harbhajan Singh that the Indian cricket team has mastered the escape-to-victory art and there is nothing, including the World Cup, they cannot achieve.

cricket Updated: Feb 01, 2011 14:46 IST

A string of Houdini acts has convinced Harbhajan Singh that the Indian cricket team has mastered the escape-to-victory art and there is nothing, including the World Cup, they cannot achieve.

The feisty 30-year-old has been an integral cog in the Indian wheel, architect of several come-from-behind wins, largely with his tricky off-spin and occasionally with his new-found batting prowess.

India's ability to return from the brink of disaster was evident in the recent South Africa tour where they rallied to draw the test series before the subsequent one-dayers provided further demonstration of their resilience.

In the second ODI in Johannesburg, India folded for 190 but returned to skittle out Graeme Smith's team in 43 overs to eke out a one-run win.

In the next match in Cape Town, India lost their top half for 93 but went on to chase down the victory target, aided by Harbhajan's 23-run cameo down the order.

"This team has got a lot of confidence," Harbhajan told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Players, right from number one to 11, have won games for India. Every player's mindset is like this team can achieve anything. It's never over till it's over.

Fighting spirit
"We believe in each other, even if we need 100 runs with two wickets left or the opponents have 150 to chase with all 10 wickets intact.

"This team has got that fighting spirit. We have showed that on many occasions and we will take that confidence into the World Cup."

The World Cup experience has been a mixed bag for one of the most fascinating characters in contemporary cricket and Harbhajan says he has seen both good and bad.

He was part of the team that reached the 2003 final and the one that made a hasty exit from the 2007 event, a setback blamed on the strife in the squad with the then coach

Greg Chappell on one side and the senior players, including Harbhajan, on the other.
"I was very new in 2003 but that was a great experience. We played some outstanding cricket throughout the World Cup, apart from the two games we lost.

"Otherwise it was quite a satisfying tournament. I've got some great memories of that World Cup -- the way we played, enjoyed each other's success and the dressing room atmosphere. The best thing was everybody was up for any challenge.

"In 2007, we did not play well at all, let's put it that way. We deserved to go home after losing to Bangladesh. We played some poor cricket.

"A few things were not in place, don't know how to put it. Lots of things went wrong before the World Cup but coming back to the point, we did not play well. That was probably the worst period of my career.

Sunny cheeriness
"I remember we lost the game but still had to wait to see if Bangladesh beat Bermuda or something like that. It clearly was the worst time I've faced in cricket."

The gloom in his voice made way for sunny cheeriness as he talked about the team's prospects this time around.

"This is the biggest thing I have not achieved so far," said Harbhajan, who was a key member of India's 2007 Twenty20 World Cup winning squad.

"If we play well, with the grace of God, I'm sure we can fulfill that dream without any issue. If we stay humble and follow the process we have been following, this is an achievable thing and I'm sure we have got the team to do that."

So confident is Harbhajan that he does not reckon the favourites' tag would weigh heavily on the team.

"Playing in India will be an advantage. There will definitely be a lot of expectation that would add to the pressure to perform but we have faced those kinds of situations and have done well.

"The players are quite mature and understand their role in the team. I'm sure they will come good."

The 2011 Cricket World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka runs from Feb 19-April 2.