Huge pressure dilutes India`s home advantage

New Delhi: The favourites` tag will be the albatross around India`s neck when Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team mates begin their quest for World Cup glory.

A billion dreams will rest on their shoulders as they seek to become the second Indian team, after the 1983 `Kapil`s Devils`, to win the top prize in one-day cricket.

With arguably the best coach around in South African Gary Kirsten, led by the unflappable and charismatic Dhoni and boasting some of the best batsmen in the game, India have never headed into a World Cup with more swagger.

They have home advantage as well, playing five of their six Group B matches in India while the other is in Bangladesh where the track will be no less docile.

It all makes a perfect recipe for success but the air will be heavy with expectation and the players know how easily things can go wrong.

"The pressure will be definitely more on the Indian side (than any other team)," Mohinder Amarnath, a key member of India`s 1983 World Cup-winning squad, told reporters.

"If you are doing well, it`s great. But if you are not doing well, you know how emotionally the Indians behave."

Mayhem broke out at Eden Gardens in 1996 when Sri Lanka derailed India`s victory chase and a trouble-marred semi-final was awarded to the eventual champions.

After India`s early loss to Australia in the 2003 World Cup, angry mobs stoned Rahul Dravid`s car and tarred the walls of Mohammad Kaif`s Allahabad residence.

It was even worse after India`s early exit in 2007 when irate fans conducted mock funerals of players and burned effigies, while security was beefed up at the cricketers` homes.

Bureau Report

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