New Delhi: Former India cricketer Kirti Azadon Tuesday hit out at Ishant Sharma and expressed concerns at the team's thin bowling option, saying it may "hamper its chances" of retaining the title in the upcoming World Cup.
"Closer to the World Cup, if you are carrying so many injuries to your key bowlers in the side and not telling the team management about it clearly, it is like cheating the people of the country. I am shocked," Azad, a member of 1983 cricket World Cup winning Indian team, told PTI in an interview.
"Unless we have a set bowling standard, we have no chance of doing well in the World Cup or for that matter any series," the 56-year-old Azad said.
India are all set to open their World Cup campaign on February 15 in Adelaide against arch-rivals Pakistan, a team against whom they have never lost a match in the mega-event.
Criticising Indian bowling spearhead Ishant for hiding injuries, Azad raised questions over the pacer's overall fitness.
"Ishant Sharma does well in one match and then he gets injured for the rest of the season. Then what is the point in having him as the main bowler for India," asked Azad.
"Even after making a comeback following a rehabilitation, he plays a couple of matches and then gets injured again.
It's difficult to understand why the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI), despite spending crores, fail to get a set team," he pointed out.
The former right-handed batsman said although it was difficult to predict anything in the game of cricket, he felt the current Indian side did not give a very bright picture in the run-up to the event.
"Going by the current form, India do not have the kind of confidence that they should going into the World Cup," Azad said.
Azad went to the extend of questioning the players' intentions also.
"I find it really strange that we are always struggling in the Test matches and the One-day Internationals but I fail to understand how all our players suddenly become 100 per cent fit when it comes to playing in the Indian Premier League," he said.
The former player termed it "strange" that despite the BCCI spending huge amount of money on improving the game in the country, the team is not producing desired results.
"Despite BCCI spending so much on coaches, including bowling coaches, video analysts, cricket academies, the Indian cricket team has failed to give the results expected of them in the field. I really find it strange," he said.
Asked whether he felt India have a strong batting line-up that could fare well in the World Cup, Azad said, "I would say even our batsmen are struggling. The way we recently performed in Australia, if that's any yardstick to go by then it is going to be difficult for even our batsmen in the World Cup."
Azad, however, refused to categorically state if India's chances of progressing beyond the quarterfinals in the World Cup was a difficult proposition.
"Cricket is a funny game and anything can happen on a particular day. So, I won't say India cannot advance beyond the quarterfinals or anything of that sort. But going by the current form, especially with our bowling line-up struggling big time, it seems India would definitely find it tough in the World Cup."
Asked which team according to him are the favourites to win the World Cup this time around, Azad said it could be anybody's trophy.
"Cricket is an unpredictable game, so every team has an equal chance of winning the Cup. I can't write off any team," Azad, who is currently a BJP MP, insisted.
He though added that Australia, playing in their home ground, would certainly have an advantage.
"Australian team looks very set and they have been doing very well off late. Playing in their own backyard, they certainly will be a force to reckon with," Azad concluded.