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Hope is in place but can hosts India deliver?

india Updated: Feb 15, 2011 13:19 IST
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With the World Cup starting in less than a month, the question uppermost on everyone's mind is: Can India pull it off?

India are strong favourites as they have a balanced team, the playing slots are sorted out and there is quality in the bench strength. The big stars, rich in experience, are supported by rising one-day specialists Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, and Yusuf Pathan is a nuclear missile capable of destroying any bowling attack.

That we are playing at home is a major plus. In cricket, conditions play a massive role, the toss makes a difference and the flat tracks will drive the foreign quicks to depression. Given these batsmen-friendly conditions, expect a run feast where 300 will be an unsafe score and if the wickets assist spin, as they will, the other teams will struggle.

No wonder, the experts back India to win. Their analysis: India are always formidable at home, the team is playing good cricket and has the talent to go all the way.

To an extent, India's challenge depends on Sachin Tendulkar, playing his sixth World Cup, who obviously is keen to make this one count. Over the years, Sachin has rarely articulated his goals or spoken about his achievements, but despite the silence, he has always been open about two things. His greatest disappointment: Losing the 2003 World Cup final to Australia in South Africa. His unfulfilled ambition: To win the World Cup.

During the past year, Sachin has been in supreme form and the stage is set for one more grand effort from him. Top players like him understand the significance of the occasion, which is why the hope that Sachin will pull this one off to cap an astonishing career.

However, a dispassionate look at India's prospects suggests the expectation of winning the World Cup is unreasonable. Yes, the team is experienced but six of the frontline players (three main batsmen and three key bowlers) are over 30 and except for one (Harbhajan Singh), the others have fitness issues. In such a situation, fielding is a concern not just injury.

History too is against India because no host country has ever won the Cup, a fact that could be a weird jinx that defies rational explanation, or a valuable insight which says undue expectation impacts the performance of players. Playing at home has its advantages but this support is also reverse swing in a way, because the accompanying hype is a distraction.

We want India to win but regardless of whether Dhoni or someone else lifts the trophy, there is no dispute that the World Cup will be a grand celebration of cricket.