Tendulkar key to India`s World Cup success
Sachin Tendulkar would be crucial to India`s success in the upcoming World Cup and the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side was far ahead of the history-making `Kapil`s Devils` in terms of talent and experience, feels member of the 1983 Cup-winning side Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
Sandhu said apart from Tendulkar the present Indian team has plenty of match-winners in Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and skipper Dhoni, who are capable of turning things around from a losing position.
"Tendulkar would be totally focusing on this World Cup. He knows this is his last World Cup as four years later he may be mentally fit but may not be physically there. He would give more than 100 per cent and would be very keen to perform. The man is known to prepare well. His work ethics are superb.
Others will get inspired by his presence," Sandhu said in an interview here.
"The guy (Tendulkar) will not allow the team to be complacent, like Sunil Gavaskar did in 1983. There are also brilliant players like Yuvraj, Yusuf and Dhoni who can bring the team back from a losing position," the 54-year-old former pacer said.
Comparing the current team to the 1983 World Cup-winning side, Sandhu said, "In our days we (bowlers) had to think on our feet, be good observers. We had to study the rival batsmen by watching other matches where they played and form a strategy. Now this is done by the support staff with the help of the video analysis and the players have to implement the strategy.
"Talent wise today`s team is way ahead. For example, in terms of ODI experience, a player like Sachin Tendulkar has alone played more matches than all of our team members put together."
Sandhu was also of the opinion that smart thinking was needed to make the best use of batting powerplays and India should field only one frontline spinner in Harbhajan Singh.
"Teams should be smart in using the batting powerplays which can make a big impact. If there are too many spinners in the side when the powerplay is taken, the team will be in trouble.
"I expect India to field three seam bowlers along with Harbhajan Singh as the lone spinner with the remaining 10 overs shared among floaters like Yuvi and Raina," he said.
He also felt that part-timer off-spinner Pathan should be encouraged to bowl his quota of 10 overs as it can make up for the poor form of one of the other bowlers.
Sandhu, who opened the bowling with skipper Kapil Dev on a regular basis during India`s triumphant run to the title 28 years ago, is confident with help from the team`s support staff, the players would be to able handle pressure.
"There are people in the support staff to take care of how to handle pressure. Pressure will be there but they should go out and enjoy playing. They have performed well over the years and should be relaxed," he said.
Sandhu is of the opinion that the sub-continent wickets may not help spinners as much as is generally believed except for the new venues.
"Except for new centres, I expect the wickets to be well settled. The ICC is handling these things and they will ensure that matches remain competitive till the end, till 95 overs, for commercial reasons," he said.
He also feels that four-time champions and holders Australia start as dark horse in the mega-event starting February 19 in Dhaka.
"Australia will be the dark horse in the tournament following their victory in the ODI series against England. Their players are well versed about Indian conditions due to their regular stints in T20 cricket (IPL) and they can get tips from coaches (in IPL) who are mostly Australians," Sandhu said.
Sandhu backed Australia, hosts India, England and either South Africa or Sri Lanka to make the semifinals in cricket`s show-piece event that ends on April 2.
"I am not backing Pakistan as I feel Pakistan do well only when they have a strong captain who leads from the front. Currently their team appears to be a divided side and they have not even named the captain," the Mumbai-born former India player said.
Recalling those heady days nearly three decades ago, Sandhu said the team`s confidence got a boost after it beat the all-conquering and mighty West Indies led by Clive Lloyd at Berbice in Guyana before the World Cup.
"Those who went to the West Indies (a few months before the Cup in England) were confident we could beat the West Indies if we played well. We were not overawed by that team. The Berbice victory was a major confidence booster," Sandhu remembered.
"We knew the West Indies panicked if they lost quick wickets. My job during the Cup was to get an early wicket or two and, if I remember correctly, we won all the games in which I took an early wicket," said the bowler, who represented the country in eight Tests and 22 ODIs.
Sandhu, who took eight wickets in the tournament that India won by turning the form book upside down, is remembered to this day for the ball with which he got rid off hard-hitting West Indian opener Gordon Greenidge in the final at Lord`s on June 25, 1983.
Greenidge shouldered arms to the in dipper from Sandhu and was bowled neck and crop to start a slide that ended with India shocking the West Indies by 43 runs in a low-scoring summit clash.
"Everyone talks about that ball but to me that is not the best ball I have bowled in international cricket. That, I feel, was the ball with which I bowled Haroon Rashid of Pakistan in a Test match. The out swinger pitched leg and middle and took the off stump. That is a more difficult ball to bowl," Sandhu said.
Staying down memory lane, Sandhu said Kapil Dev`s masterly 175 not out, which pulled India from a tottering 17 for five in a do-or-die league clash against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, was the turning point for the team.
"Kapil`s 175 not out was the turning point. After we won that game we knew we could do it. The victory over the West Indies in the opening game was also a big morale booster. We also won all our practice games barring one against Sri Lanka which also gave us lot of confidence in the run-up to the tournament," he recalled.
"We knew if we played to our potential we can win. Sunil (Gavaskar), Yashpal (Sharma) and Mohinder (Amarnath) were there to steady the innings while the other strokemakers were there to play their shots," he added.