S S Ramaswamy
Mumbai, Jan 27 (PTI) India have the combination to lifttheir first ODI World Cup trophy in 28 years but the form oftemperamental batsman Yuvraj Singh and explosive all-rounderYusuf Pathan will prove decisive, says 1983 World Cup winningteam''s member Dilip Vengsarkar.
Vengsarkar feels the team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasthe credentials to go all the way in the event commencingFebruary 19 in the sub-continent.
"India is numero uno at present. It''s one of the bestteams in world cricket at present. India will be playing athome and that''s a huge advantage. Unlike the team of 1983,India has been the number one team for the last four years orso and are the strong favourites to win the World Cup. We hada similar sort of combination in 1987 but failed in thesemis," Vengsarkar told PTI.
Asked about the x-factor in the team, he said it could beeither Yuvraj or Pathan, both powerful hitters of the ball.
"It will be either Yuvraj or Yusuf Pathan," he said.
Vengsarkar, a former chairman of the selection panel,said the Indian batting line-up has a settled look with acombination of youth and experience.
"We have a very strong batting line up with (Virender)Sehwag, (Sachin)Tendulkar, (Gautam) Gambhir, Yuvraj (Singh),Yusuf (Pathan) all in great form," he said.
Vengsarkar felt the wickets at this time of the yearwould help India''s slow bowlers in the middle overs.
"They will be drier in the month of March and that willsurely help Indian spinners in the middle overs," he said.
Vengsarkar also tipped holders Australia, who have slidsteeply down the Test ranks, Sri Lanka and South Africa tomake the last four in cricket''s showpiece.
"India, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa," he saidwhen asked who will make it to the semifinals.
Looking back at the 1983 World Cup triumph, Vengsarkarsaid the turning point of the campaign by Kapil''s Devils thatended with the epoch-making 43-run shock victory over thendefending champions West Indies in the summit clash of theWorld Cup was the peaking of the squad at the most opportunetime.
"I guess India peaked at the right time. Surely, the winin the first game versus the West Indies (was crucial) and theform of every batsman and bowler was important to beat theAustralians and England later to reach the final. It got theteam into the winning mode," said the former India captain.
Kapil Dev and his men turned the formbook upside down bydefeating the mighty Clive Lloyd-led West Indies twice inthree encounters during the mega event in England, includingin the final on June 25 at the Lord''s to usher in a new era inIndian cricket. .
Vengsarkar was badly injured during the campaign when the fastest member of the fearsome West Indian pace battery � thelate Malcolm Marshall � struck him on his chin for which heneeded seven stitches ruling him out till the semi-final.
The 54-year-old former batsman felt the victory over theseemingly invincible West Indies of those days at Berbice inGuyana when India visited the Caribbean for a full tour priorto the Cup, was also crucial as it broke the myth that Lloyd''sTigers were unbeatable.
"It (win by 34 runs at Old Trafford) gave us a lot ofconfidence to beat the best in the business in the opener. Thestrategy to bat first and put the strong West Indies battingline up under pressure worked, for they look vulnerable whenput under pressure.
"In one-dayers, it is important to play well on theparticular day, for a team however good it is, if it playsbadly, does not get another chance to come back into the game.
Of course, the win at Berbice was crucial as myth of the WestIndians being invincible was dispelled."
West Indies were the top team in world cricket in bothTests and ODIs at that time while Australia and England werealso tipped for the title. Vengsarkar said the Indians werethe dark horses.
"Well, the West Indies were the best team in worldcricket then and they were dominating both forms of the game.
The Australians and England too were very good and were tippedto win the World Cup. As far as India was concerned, we werethe dark horses," said Vengsarkar, who played 116 Tests and129 ODIs � including in three World Cup campaigns.
"Kapil was outstanding. He was at the peak of his career.
Besides Kapil, we had batsmen who could bowl effectively inEnglish conditions, as most of them had been playing in Clubcricket in the UK for many years. The new ball attack hadKapil, Balwinder Sandhu, Madan Lal and Roger Binny besidesMohinder Amarnath with his slow-medium cutters.
"They used the conditions splendidly. Mohinder and KirtiAzad too bowled well when asked to and gave crucialbreakthroughs," said Vengsarkar when queried about thecritical element in the team''s victory surge. (MORE) PTISSR DK PM
"Kapil was new to captaincy but overall did very well to lead from the front. Being in such a great form helped him aswell," Vengsarkar pointed out.
The format for the eight-team event � in which each teamplayed every other in its group twice in the league leading tothe semis - was also good for all the teams for making acomeback in the competition after a loss, Vengsarkar felt.
"Not only India but it helped every team, for if a teamfaltered in one match, it had the chance to come back into thecompetition," he said to a question whether the Indiansbenefited from the format.
Recalling the chin injury against Marshall in the returnclash against the West Indies at The Oval, which India lost by66 runs, Vengsarkar said the setback forced him to miss one ofthe defining moments of the Cup campaign three days later atTunbridge Wells.
"It was disappointing, for I was playing well at the timeI was hit on the chin by a Marshall delivery and had toretire. The players who replaced me gave a very good accountof themselves and though I was fit for the final it was on thecards that the winning combination would play and rightly so,"he said.
He said Kapil''s unforgettable 175 not out against minnowsZimbabwe, which he missed as he had been advised completerest, should be counted as the best knock in the competitionin the context of the situation as India were deep in the holeat 17-5 and recovered to make 266-8 before winning by 31 runs.
(MORE) PTI SSR DK PM
"Without a doubt. Unfortunately I did not travel with the team as I had seven stitches on my chin and the doctors inLondon had advised me complete rest," Vengsarkar said.
"It must be one of the greatest knocks ever played in thehistory of one-day cricket. Later he came out and bowled 12effective overs to win the game for India," he recalled. PTISSR DK PM