'It is a fair format'

"There are always ups and downs in any team in any sport but emotions in our country run to the extreme," says Rahul Dravid in a chat with Vijay Lokapally.

In his first World Cup as captain, and third overall, Rahul Dravid is confident as ever of his team doing well. A finalist in 2003, India can look forward to giving its best under Dravid's leadership. He has the mental strength to handle the responsibility and his bright cricketing acumen lends credibility to his character and honest claims concerning the range of his team. Despite his busy schedule, Dravid, as always, found time to speak to Sportstar on the World Cup in the West Indies.

Question: Do you have a settled combination?

Answer: We do have. We have greater flexibility and more options at various positions. In the past, people have always criticised India for sticking to the same batting order. We have been slammed for not being flexible. Now that we have gained in this area, people say we don't have a settled line-up. We can't take everyone seriously. If a key player performs or the experiment works, the line-up becomes settled but if it doesn't they talk of an unsettled order. Let me tell you a lot of good things have happened in the last one year. We have done well against established Test teams. I am not the one for statistics but they speak well for us.

How confident are you of winning the Cup?

In my opinion, seven to eight teams have a realistic chance of winning the Cup. We have to get to the semifinals and then look to play well on that particular day. We are as good as any other team. Much of it depends on the key players. It depends on how they perform at the key moment. The most important thing is that we have to respond to the challenge as a team.

Is India not relying too much on the recent wins against depleted oppositions at home to assess its strength?

One has to have the right perspective. We don't get carried away or get depressed with the victories or losses. There are always ups and downs in any team in any sport but emotions in our country run to the extreme. We players are not the ones to swing wildly. We are balanced and we know what our strength is. We take confidence from the good show at home and move on.

On under-tested pitches in the West Indies is India not over-dependent on its batsmen to win?

We need to put an all-round performance and not blindly place our belief in just one department. There is no doubt that we have a very powerful batting line up but please don't underestimate the bowlers. In the last 18 months they have done an exceptionally fine job. India has conceded 300 or more runs only once. As established batsmen, we know our job is to support the bowlers and that is what I expect at the World Cup. Our attack, I promise you, has an effective combination.

With only Zaheer Khan looking in form, do you think India is lacking the fifth bowler? Do you seriously believe India has a competent and complete bowling attack? Do you have any concerns in this area?

No concerns, honestly. I have maintained that the bowlers have given their best and performed consistently. In ideal scenario last year (in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and at home against England) we tended to go in with five bowlers, which included an all-rounder. Irfan Pathan was the all-rounder the team looked up to. He was exceptional with the bat and was the architect of many wins. But Irfan has been struggling for some time now and we have had to rethink this policy of five bowlers. We are hoping Irfan comes back to form at the World Cup.

Is the team prepared in case a key bowler suffers an injury?

We are. As a professional team, in any case, we are ready for any eventuality that rises from an injury to any bowler. We can adapt to any situation now but I must concede that if we have a performing all-rounder it becomes easy. The fifth bowler can be an ideal man if he happens to be an all-rounder, for that adds depth to the batting.

Can you improve as a one-day team?

Not overnight. See, we have to do with the stuff we have. We have been good at fielding different combinations. I think it is a very good sign that we are not relying on the same XI to win matches.

How do you look at the fielding standards of the team? Much has been said about the lack of athleticism in this department?

We have been improving and hope to keep doing better. Concerns in this area are nothing new. It was said about India's fielding not being good from the time I have been playing. But there is no doubt that we have to field as well as we can. We may not have some great athletic fielders but we have some very good fielders in the side.

This will be your third World Cup and the first as skipper, and also as a non-wicketkeeper. Do you view it as the biggest challenge of your career? How well are you prepared personally?

I won't say this is the biggest challenge for me. My Test debut was a huge challenge. My first World Cup was a huge challenge. It has been a challenge right through. Each contest seems a challenge. But I must say that I am excited about the World Cup and want to do well. I want the team to do well. I don't want the team to look at the World Cup as some great challenge and lose sleep thinking about it.

So what would you ask the players to remember?

I want the players to enjoy. I want them to treat the World Cup as a great opportunity and not worry about what would happen. The key lies in enjoying the challenge. Personally it is great to be playing my third World Cup. I enjoyed my last two World Cups immensely and I don't really feel any additional pressure. My success or failure as a captain will be judged from the team's performance.

Is it a fair format?

I think it is. Every team gets an opportunity to recover and it puts emphasis on consistency. You have to be consistent to be successful because there are at least seven or eight teams capable of winning the title.

Is this break from cricket before the World Cup good for the team? Does it not spoil the rhythm?

It is not really a break. It helps if you take time off. There are little niggles to take care of and by the first match we should be in the best of shape. We have played cricket right through the year. We were lucky not to have any injuries at the last World Cup and have to ensure we have minimal injuries on this occasion. It is a long tournament and we need some luck.

Do you believe the team will feel the pressure from the huge media presence at the World Cup?

Since we would be travelling and be so far away from home, we would actually have no clue about what is happening back home in the media. That, to me, is a big advantage. We can stay cocooned and it should insulate the players, far away from the hype. It will really be good for the team.