Starspeak

AS TOLD TO VIJAY LOKAPALLY Kapil Dev

I want India to win. There is nothing like winning a world title and believe me, it will give the country great joy if these lads can come back with the Cup, as it happened in 1983. This team has immense potential and it is for the players to realise it and make the most of their collective strength. I know individual brilliance can make a huge impact at times but this team will have to perform collectively. That is what we did in 1983 when everyone had a role to play. We have the right combination. There is no doubt we have to improve our fielding standards but importantly I expect the seniors to show the way. Honestly, it will be very difficult to pick a favourite because at least six teams look good enough to win the Cup.

Madan Lal

I will back India. It is a good side and we have a very strong combination. The batting promises a lot and I am sure the bowlers would adapt quickly because the conditions are similar to what we have at home. The team will have to focus hard and believe in itself. There are millions praying for the team and waiting for it to return with the Cup. India will have to click as a team and not just rely on individuals. The seniors, to me, will show the way.

Syed Kirmani

It can be anybody's World Cup. The West Indies is a great place to have such a competition and I think no less than eight teams are qualified to win the title. Australia was a depleted side when it lost to England and New Zealand recently but I would rate it as a dangerous outfit and hot favourite. The difference among the top teams is not much and it is a question of playing the big matches well. India has a wonderful chance and the team must peak at the right time. The confidence is high as far as India is concerned. If this team does not win the World Cup then I don't know which Indian team would ever win.

Sandeep Patil

It will be an interesting World Cup. The format may not appeal to many as the best but you can't ignore the smaller teams. They learn from this stage, as we did when I was coaching the Kenyan team. The best thing about this World Cup is that there are six to eight teams with a realistic chance of winning. In one-day cricket, the clue lies in peaking at the right time. A bad game can come at any time to demoralise a team but the good teams recover. You have to play well from start to finish. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England and India are the teams with a good chance to win. What can I say of India? At every World Cup since 1983 we have had a good chance. There is no doubt that we have a very good batting line-up but it is the bowling attack that concerns me. The question of who will handle the new ball is vital. I think we can do well but we need to pick the right combination.

Kirti Azad

It is going to be an exciting World Cup. The West Indies has its own charm about cricket and I am sure the atmosphere would be ideal for a world event like this. It is true any team can win on a given day because there is little to pick among the top eight. But I am disappointed by the format. It is pathetic if you ask me because some of the teams are too weak. As far as the best is concerned I think South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies look very tough. India has a chance but it has to play very, very well. I know the boys can lift their game. After Australia's recent defeats it has become an open competition and the other teams too look confident.

K. Srikkanth

It will obviously be a different and exciting World Cup. The teams are well placed and almost eight of them are as strong as any other team. I like the format — the super eight. It is just like 1992. Maybe we could have avoided having the weak teams in the World Cup but then it is too late to do anything now and then we also need to develop cricket. But having so many weak teams can devalue the competition in the initial stages at least. I think the best four teams in the tournament would be India, Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka with New Zealand also in with a good chance. Unless the bowlers adapt quickly they would suffer because the pitches would be similar to those in India. The three teams to gain in the second half of the tournament could be India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka because the pitches may afford more spin. I expect India to do well.

Maninder Singh

I don't think I am happy with the first part of the World Cup. Too many weak teams and lop-sided matches may not be an ideal start to a world event. Let the World Cup be restricted to the best 10 teams and not stretch so long. It should be over in 25 days and not 50 because it tends to affect the fitness of the players. It would also make an impact on the intensity of the tournament and if you have a match rained off then the big team would suffer. As far as prediction is concerned, I think it will be tough to say who would be the best. I think the teams best qualified are England and New Zealand but let me tell you that it is based on the fact that the pitches in the West Indies will help their bowlers. England has good spinners in Monty Panesar and Jamie Dalrymple and Paul Collingwood looks a quality player. New Zealand has Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel. New Zealand is an under-rated side and England's confidence will be high after its win over Australia. The Indians would have to be at their best and look at performing collectively if they hope to win the Cup.

B. S. Sandhu

Can't think of a better place than the West Indies for cricket. And World Cup will be great. I think we have picked the best possible team for the tournament and we have a very good chance. Ganguly will surely do well and I expect seniors like Dravid, Tendulkar and Sehwag to decide the course. The players are highly motivated and this is the right stage for them to perform. If India does not win this World Cup, it would be tough in the next two too since we would lose many seniors after this tournament. We have a very good chance to win because we have a very good side.

Yashpal Sharma

The West Indies will offer conditions quite similar to that in the sub-continent and that is why I will back teams with quality spinners like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. There are changes in international cricket now. Australia has started to lose frequently. South Africa has started to win more. New Zealand has improved. The sub-continent teams seem to be struggling but they will enjoy the conditions more. In India's case, the players depend on each other a lot. The team has the potential. The last time it lost the final it was because the players did not perform collectively. Some of the players are older now but they are also experienced. The presence of Sourav Ganguly will mean a lot. He is the key. The players will need to be consistent and learn to finish the job and not leave it to the others. It is the first World Cup where no team is favourite and that to me is a good sign indeed.

N. S. Sidhu

There can be no better place in the world than the West Indies to play cricket. Everyone is an expert and knows his cricket. Cricket is a way of life in the Caribbean. The format could have been better but we have to move on instead of worrying about it now. As far as the competition is concerned it could be anybody's game honestly. I expect India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to perform well. It will be like playing in their own backyard for them because of the slow nature of the pitches. West Indies could be the dark horse but Australia will be the strong favourite. It is an illusion to think that Australia is on the decline. It is not. It is a fallacy to assume that the team is not motivated anymore. Skimmed milk masquerading as cream, things are seldom as they seem. That is what Australia's case is.

Azharuddin

There is no doubt that we are well prepared and are in the best frame of mind to make an impact at the World Cup. I would prefer Virender Sehwag to open with Sourav Ganguly. Sending Sachin Tendulkar at number three would be ideal and the best man for the number five spot at the moment is Rahul Dravid. We have a balanced side and the only area that worries me is the fitness of the players. We will have to play only fit players, otherwise the fielding would suffer. Without good fielding we would be in a tight spot. But as far as the team is concerned I think this is the best possible combination to repeat 1983. I wish the team the best.

W.V.Raman

I expect India to do well. The team is a bit short in the middle-order. We should open with Sehwag and Ganguly and improve the quality in the middle-order. We are missing a finisher and a big hitter at No. 6. Here I think someone like Laxman or Kaif would have been immensely useful. The case of Irfan Pathan would be crucial. He is not quick enough and his in-swinger, too, is not working effectively. He has become onedimensional and it is this all-rounder's position that causes concern. India's chances will rely on how the team uses the middle overs when batting and bowling.

Nayan Mongia

I am sure India will win the Cup. Tell me which team in the world has three batsmen with more than 10,000 runs each to their credit. The fact that Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid would carry the responsibility means the team will benefit from their rich experience. We have an ideal blend to take on the best teams and there is no doubt that we are well prepared. The confidence level of the players is very high and I am sure the team will exploit the conditions that will most likely favour the teams from the subcontinent. There are teams like Australia and New Zealand that can be in the reckoning. Even West Indies can take advantage of home conditions but India by far looks the best.