New Delhi: Kapil Dev and Sir Vivian Richards feel that India are run-away favourites to win next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, but Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga added a note of caution about their ability to soak in the pressure of playing at home.
That, in a nutshell, was how the former captains and legends in their own rights felt about how things will pan out in a couple of months’ time as the marquee event starts on February 19.
“They are the No. 1 in the world (in Test matches) and have a volatile crowd behind them. They have something to defend. The team is going to South Africa where pitches will be different but it can prove to be helpful as they prepare for the World Cup,” legendary West Indian batsman Richards, who was the member of the 1975 and 1979 World Cup winning squad, said.
‘King Richards’, however, wasn’t too sure about how West Indies will perform although he admitted that the likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard do have the talent to go the distance.
“Some prayer would obviously help,” he said in lighter vein. “On a serious note, they do have the talent but they need to get things organised a bit. May be they need a catalyst who could inspire them like Arjuna did with the Sri Lankan team during the 1996 World Cup.”
For Kapil Dev, the first step should be towards reaching the semi-final and taking it from there.
“If you want to win the World Cup, you need to play well in those 20-30 days. Also the fact that they are going to South Africa before that would be of great help like we had a tough tour of West Indies right before the 1983 World Cup. We played tough cricket in the Windies and subsequently in the World Cup.
“Similarly if the Indians do well in South Africa, it would be a great confidence booster. Even if they don’t, they know they will be playing in front of the home crowd,” Kapil said pointing out that the likes of Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir will play key roles.
About Harbhajan Singh’s lean patch with the ball, Kapil said, “It’s matter of time before he gets back to form. The only thing is that he needs to mentally feel that he can do it.”
While Imran Khan termed India as favourites, he cited how West Indies and Pakistan were favourites in the 1983 and 1987 editions but buckled down under pressure.
“I remember going into the semi-final feeling confident. However, we made mistakes and couldn’t handle the pressure. The same thing happened with West Indies in 1983. Just after Viv got out, they wilted under pressure,” Imran said.
The iconic former Pakistan skipper also said that the key to winning World Cup lay in having two batsmen who can play well throughout the tournament and others building the innings around their knocks.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga termed his country as favourites and didn’t forget to mention that Indians tend to crumble when they play in front of huge crowds in pressure cooker situation.
“I have seen the Indian team fail in pressure situations while playing in front of 100,000 people. There are times when the expectations are huge and it takes a toll,” Ranatunga said.
The burly former skipper feels that Lankans have a potent combination with experienced players such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Muralitharan to name a few.
“However, I believe the team of 1996 had a better middle-order as we had players such as Aravinda D’Silva, Asanka Gurusinha, myself, Roshan Mahanama, Hasan Tillekratne.”