India - The true World Champions
The way India are performing it`s only justified that they are the favorites for the WC 2011. The tournament is held in the sub-continent and it`s obvious to feel that India have a huge advantage, both with regards to the conditions and the crowd support. Also India is doing really well as a unit and with Sachin back in the ODI squad it only adds strength to an already strong side.
Though I don`t like to compare teams from different eras, I can say that it`s going to be one of the strongest sides India would field ever. Batting is as strong as it possibly can be. Bowling might be a bit of a concern but now that India has beefed up its spin department, I`m sure Dhoni has something specific in mind with regards to his bowlers in the playing XI.
India`s bowling looks a little weak if compared to the strong batting line-up. But I`m a firm believer that if your best four remain fit and are in form, you won`t feel the pinch. If the team does well, you don`t change much and if it doesn`t, you don`t have much time to change much.
Yusuf is the man to take the attack to the opposition and that`s exactly what you need at number 7. You need someone who can use the long handle effectively and also contribute with the ball. His shortcoming against the short-pitched deliveries won`t hamper him too much in the sub-continent. Moreover, he`s the man in form which is worth its weight in gold in a tournament like World Cup.
There is one name I liked to have in the 15-member squad. Robin Uthappa could have been the ideal choice for the back-up for MSD. You need a keeper who could bat effectively lower down the order and Uthappa has shown that he has both the strength to clear the fence and the temperament to bat in the death overs because he`s a good finisher. But now that Team India is without a reserve keeper, I keep my fingers crossed that MSD doesn`t get even a niggle, for we don`t have anyone in the team who can don the gloves if needed.
Apart from India, Sri Lanka will be a tough side to beat. Just like India they`ll also be enjoying home conditions and crowd support. I`d also be wary of Australia and England.
Sri Lanka is a tough unit to beat in the limited over format especially in the sub-continent, for they have the right resources to utilize the conditions to the maximum. England will be the side to beat, for they will be coming into the WC on high of winning the Ashes.
Australia, despite the dip in form and skill, is one team which knows what exactly it takes to win the coveted trophy more than any other country. Their resources may be a little thin at the moment but their resolve won`t be!
Peaking at the right time is the key to doing well in a tournament like World Cup. While it`s a long tournament, hitting the ground running and maintaining the momentum are essential for a team`s success. And of course you must keep raising the bar as you go along.
(Aakash Chopra opened for India in 10 Tests, forming a potent all-Delhi combination with Virender Sehwag during India`s tour of Australia in 2003-04. He also made his mark as India`s last exceptional close-in fielder. He has also played over 130 first class matches. He writes columns for leading newspapers and websites. He also penned a book `Beyond the Blues`. Aakash`s Twitter feed is here http://twitter.com/cricketaakash)
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