The dice is rolling in India's favour: Imran

Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan is having a strong "hunch" that India would beat Australia in the World Cup final in Johannesburg.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2003 19:37 IST

Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan is having a strong "hunch" that India would beat Australia in the World Cup final in Johannesburg on Sunday as the dice had started rolling in their favour.

The key for India, he feels, will be to preserve wickets against the fearsome Australian opening bowlers and then go all out for a big total.

"My hunch is that India will win because they have peaked at the right time and because all their key players are in prime form. Moreover their morale and confidence are sky high. They have the momentum going for them," Imran wrote in the 'Daily Telegraph'.

"Those who have lived cricket life at the top know somehow when the dice starts rolling in a team's favour."

The real combat, he said, would be between Sachin Tendulkar and the Australian pace duo of Glenn McGrath and Lee. In the league phase, India never recovered from McGrath's killer blow and lost by nine wickets.

"This time, too, the match could well be decided on the result of the duel between Tendulkar and Australia's opening attack. Even if Tendulkar does not dominate McGrath and Lee and just sees them off, India can pile up a big enough total to test Australia's batting," he observed.

If the Indians can keep wickets in hand, they would have 20 overs of spin to score off. "Bear in mind that, of all the teams in world cricket, (Australian leg-spinner Shane) Warne has his worst record against India, such is their ability to play spin."

"(But) if the Australian pacemen break through early then, apart from Rahul Dravid, I cannot see any other Indian batsmen - in particular, Sourav Ganguly - coping with the pace of Lee, McGrath and Bichel on the bouncy Wanderers pitch," the cricketer-turned-politician said.

He said the discovery of the tournament has been the Indian pace attack - Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, "all in excellent form".

"Nehra and Zaheer have moved the ball both ways at good pace. Yet for me the danger man is the unassuming Srinath, who has probably beaten the bat more than any bowler in the tournament.

"Srinath's danger ball is big leg-cutter to the right hander, a delivery that can deceive the best.
This is the best pace attack India have had and thus the team looks the best balanced. The balance could be even better if Ganguly has the guts to play Anil Kumble as well as Harbhajan Singh to exploit Australia's vulnerability to spin," Imran said.

He also reminded that the record of hosts and favourites was "disastrous" in World Cups.

"The hosts are out. Australia, the favourites are left." he stated.

"India are on a high. The team entering the finals are a far cry from the shabby-looking outfit who entered the competition still hungover from their demoralising tour of New Zealand.

"Suddenly India look a well-knit, balanced unit whose self-belief is soaring, fed by each victory. They are a team peaking at the right time. Hence they will be playing at their best in the final."

First Published: Mar 22, 2003 19:37 IST