New Delhi: Without intending to undermine India's brilliant showing so far in the cricket World Cup, former all-rounder Kirti Azad feels the pitches being prepared for the showpiece event are a lot flatter than the ones used during the tri-series preceding the tournament.
After failing to win a single ODI in the tri-nation event involving winners Australia and England, India surprised one and all by comprehensively winning their first three games of the World Cup against Pakistan, South Africa and UAE. Azad, who was a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad, tried to talk about the team's turnaround mantra.
"That time the weather was not so warm hence the ball was moving around here and there. We were not acclimatised that well. Now with the summer coming in it is ideal weather for Indian team and ideal pitches.
"Look the pitches at the time of the tri-series had a little bit of grass on them. Now they are completely dry. Even if you try you can't get grass on the pitches in this weather. So the conditions have changed for the good of Indian team. But if they are there then why not, let's lap it up and enjoy," Azad told PTI on the sidelines of the Shubh Muhurat of his Hindi film titled 'Kirket' and the launch was also graced by Sports Minister Sarbanada Sonowal.
"We have a winning spirit, we don't have sportsman spirit. We should realise that when we were playing the tri-series, we had a depleted side. Injuries galore and we were playing with 12 players. Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja were all injured and we were short on players. So we did not have much choice," he added.
Azad cautioned the fans against celebrating too early as the defending champions have a long road ahead before the finals at MCG on March 29.
"Look what we have seen of India so far is just 50-50. And by 50-50, I mean that India have managed to put up a big score on the board but are yet to chase a big total and I am not counting the game against UAE. So there is one aspect that remains untested.
"Yes, as an Indian I would love to see India winning and I am enjoying it but there is a cricketer in me that forces me to put reason behind every win and loss. So India are yet to face Australia, New Zealand and when they will meet these strong teams in the quarter-finals then they will really have to play their best cricket," said the 56-year-old BJP MP from Darbhanga.
An aggressive right-hand batsman and a quickish
off-spinner, Azad, who played seven Tests and 25 ODIs during his six-year-long career from 1980 to 1986, said that India still lack a quality all-rounder.
"Yes, it is and very badly. The soul of every team is an all-rounder especially when he comes in to bat at 6,7 and 8. If the top-order goes then these all-rounders can chip in useful runs, say 30-40 valuable runs like we did in the 83 World Cup," said Azad.
"And on the bowling front, they can play the role of a fourth or a fifth bowler. Just come in there and chip in 10 useful overs. So all-rounders are heart and soul of any team," he added.
The Bihar-born cricketer also stressed on the need to tap talent from his state, which is lying neglected without a recognised cricket body.
"Children have deprived of their right to showcase talent and perform. Because there are many states in the country who don't have affiliation of the board and they don't play Ranji Trophy. It's Bihar, Chattisgarh, many states in the North-East. But then you have four associations in Maharashtra, CCI doesn't play cricket. You have two associations in Bengal, NCC doesn't play cricket. Jharkhand got membership but I don't know why Bihar didn't get it.
"And that's what my film 'Kirket' is all about. It's not a biopic mind you. It's a genuine story of talented but underprivileged young boys who if given a chance can do wonders. And that's what the country's talented cricketers need at this time. Lot of talent to be unearthed from small centers and Bihar tops it," said Azad.