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I wouldn't write India off: Gary Kirsten

Mumbai: India's World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten feels it would be premature to write off the defending champions and said the holders have a good chance of retaining the title with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the helm.

"They are a quality outfit and I wouldn't write them off.

They have got one of the most successful captains ever and in terms of closing off the events, let's not discount the Dhoni factor. A lot of things have changed and shifted in his life at the moment but when it comes to these events, he steps up and he is at his best," Kirsten told reporters here.

"A lot of people seem to be writing India off but they have a very strong batting line-up. They have played a lot of cricket in Australia. There would be no reason to suggest why they wouldn't have as good a chance as any other team."

India failed to win a single match in the recently concluded tri-series tournament featuring England and World Cup hosts Australia.

"This team has been together for two years and they won the Champions Trophy, so they still have some credibility. You have got to be wary of them and not take them for granted," Kirsten said.

The South African admitted that the team hasn't been playing to the best of its ability but said it would allow the side to figure out the best 11 ahead of the knockout rounds.

"They are misfiring at the moment but maybe it's a good thing. I don't think we should read too much into it. I think it's healthy that teams that aren't playing well now, it's not a bad thing," said the 47-year-old.

"You need to be playing at your best in a month's time.

They have got a lot of time with practice game and seven round robin games, to work out the combinations. For me that's where the tournament begins. They might not be playing their best at the moment but they have got a good chance."

The former India coach felt India would perform well playing without pressure as most people have written them off.

"They are not batting well as they can now. It is probably a good thing. I think it's an advantage. Everyone writes them off, there is no expectation. It's a beautiful place for a team to be in, when there is no expectation.

"They can plan with less pressure and play with more freedom. I don't think they would be too concerned about the criticism they receive and I think it is going to work in their favour," Kirsten said.

Kirsten said all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja would be one the key players to India's success in their World Cup campaign starting on February 14.

"I think Jadeja is important to the team. So if he is fit and he comes into form in a couple of weeks time, it will be an important component to the success, because he is a key player in my opinion," he said.

With vice-captain Virat Kohli going through a slump in his form in the recent ODI matches, Kirsten felt he should bat at number three.

"He is a champion cricketer. He is going to work that out. Sometimes it's a good thing. He is a bit out form so can take some learnings. The coaches would be working with him and saying what are your strategies. Maybe he is thinking too much. He will be a real factor this World Cup," he said.

"I am always a big fan of your best batsman batting at number three because he has the ability to score hundreds and you want him to have the best chance of doing it. I think they are talking about shifting him to four because they don't want to expose him to the new ball. It would be nice to get your best batsman got a front up. It will be interesting to see what they do," he added.

Kirsten, who coached India from 2008 to 2011, said the batsmen would have to find a way to negate the pace and bounce in Australia and New Zealand.

"It's the way they navigate the cricket ball is going to determine their success. They have had four months there. The batsmen did well in the Test series, so it's going to be how they navigate.

"I am wondering if they are going to bat second a lot of the time so they can try to chase scores down. They have got a great record of chasing scores. If they navigate the bounce and pace, there is no reason why they can't, they will be formidable. Teams are going to use that as a strategy against them," he said.

Kirsten is mentoring the South African team and said they have the best chance to win the World Cup this time.

"Proteas have got a great chance of winning this tournament. They have got to overcome some baggage from past tournament. They have got some good young senior players. They have a strong chance of winning it and probably the best chance they have had since 1999 (when the semi-final match against Australia was tied). They are a good side," he said.

Kirsten felt leg-spinner Imran Tahir would play a crucial role in South Africa's campaign.

"Imran Tahir is very instrumental. He is bowling fantastically well. He is one of the best spinners in the world and he bowls very well in 50-overs so he will be a factor," he said. 

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