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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Cricket Columns

Hunger will define India's quest
John Wright
September 15, 2012
First Published: 23:41 IST(15/9/2012)
Last Updated: 01:14 IST(16/9/2012)

This T20 World Cup looks wide open with India slight favourites in terms of odds and sentiment. But you could throw a blanket of even terms over the next seven teams with New Zealand and Bangladesh being the outsiders.

What can be said about Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, they cannot win the big thing. It will however be interesting to observe whether the minnows, Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, are more competitive in T20 than in the 50-over format.

The toughest group is that of Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh, where one of those teams will miss out making it to the Super Eights. All the other favourites should make it comfortably through the group stages unless the weather intervenes.

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Replicate 2011
India's success appears to depend on how desperate they are to win the Cup. Can they match the intensity of their long journey in the 2011 World Cup, where it seemed almost imperative for the team and nation that they prevail? In those tough and defining moments of tournament play, it is this hunger and desire that can carry you through those moments of crisis. In my time as coach, the biggest enemy at various times seemed to be success. Any major win or forward step of progress seemed to be followed by a period of time where our results were mixed. It wasn't until we found ourselves in the situation of having to win a game that our quality of play would pick up.

Key rivals
So for all of us trying to pick a winner, an important component to consider is the hunger and desperation of any side. Outwardly, this is hard to judge because these days, with every team's media liaison officer scurrying around, all the right words are said by the right players.

Another factor to consider is what would be the consequences of failure for any side that does not perform here? Would any team dare not return home?  Are players playing for their places?

Among India's main opponents, three teams stand out in terms of hunger and desire. South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh have never won a World Cup of any significance. (This is outside the Champions Trophy which is now on its last legs) Bringing home the trophy would have real meaning for these three countries. You can add to them by including Sri Lanka. There is nothing more motivating than playing in front of your fans. Failure in performance is recognised more personally at home, so Sri Lanka will be proud and primed.

Of the rest, Australia will compete hard because they are the most consistent competitors. Pakistan seem more organised and dangerous these days. England seem to have a bit going on off the stage with the Kevin Peterson shenanigans. They may miss his runs but they won't miss him and his puerile texting.

Mystery man
That leaves the West Indians. T20 almost seems to have been invented for these outrageously talented strikers of the cricket ball. They are definite contenders, however, their bowling is patchy and their eventual success may depend on the effectiveness of their mystery spinner, Sunil Narine.

The context of this tournament also becomes important. With the exception of the 50-over World Cup, ICC events seem to come and go. At present in T20, the IPL is where the real bite seems to lie.

It's so commercial and cut-throat, where franchises along with the owners, coaches and players know that their heads are on the block. This stark competitive and commercial environment has created a great platform for the T20 spectacle to flourish. The World T20 must show us that it is an event which, even without the glamour and big money, somehow matters more.

The writer is a former India coach
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