The hype around Team India is always high when they enter a World Cup. For the 2015 World Cup the expectations are even higher given they enter the tournament as the defending champions. However, their winless tour to Australia has evoked questions over their fate in the tournament.
But according to Sourav Ganguly, it would be “a knee-jerk reaction” to write MS Dhoni’s men off. The former India captain also feels that Dhoni, the eldest member of the squad and one of the four survivors of India’s successful 2011 campaign, will hold the key to India’s chances in Australia and New Zealand.
“Writing off India on the basis of their below-par show in Tests and the tri-series would be a knee-jerk reaction,” Ganguly told a leading Indian newspaper. “It does not do justice to the team. I think our boys will prove a lot of people wrong in the coming days. I expect them to make the semifinals. Thereafter, it is a question of having two good matches.
“I expect them to rise to the occasion. A lot will depend on captain Dhoni. His form with the bat and his leadership will be the key for India. The team needs Dhoni to have a very good World Cup,” Ganguly said.
Ganguly’s optimism for India has its roots in the team’s overall fine performance in the ICC tournaments in all conditions. He also feels that having spent a long time in Australia will help the young team in terms of coping with the conditions.
“I think we are a much better side in limited-overs cricket and our record in the World Cup is good,” he said. “We have enough depth in the squad, and having spent over two months in Australia, our boys are now quite used to the conditions.
“Like India, Australia too have always been very tough to beat in home conditions. Let us not forget that India will not be playing only against Australia in the World Cup. In fact, they are not even in our group. Playing against other teams does not guarantee success, but I am sure our boys will be up for it.”
The captain who led India to the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa, does feel there are a few concerns that need to be taken care of before the tournament begins. The main one is bowling.
“I think a lot depends on the fitness of Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The team management must take a call on these two after our first warm-up game against Australia [Feb 8]. If they are not fit, replacements must be called in at the earliest.
“Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami have bowled a lot in the last two months and have been rightly given a rest before India's first match.
“I think there is still some uncertainty about the No 7 spot. I expect Stuart Binny to play most of the matches as the third medium-pace option. Then there is Ravindra Jadeja. I also expect R Ashwin to play a significant role at some stage,” Ganguly said.
The former India captain has picked India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as his semi-finalists.