India''s WC squad has maximum number of match-winners: Kirmani

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Chandraboli Mitra

New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) The Indian team for the 2011World Cup is one of the most well-balanced units comprisingmaximum number of match-winners, according to 1983 World Cupwinning team member Syed Kirmani, who feels it is the bestchance for the Men In Blue to bag the coveted title.

"All the players from top to bottom are match-winners.

Anyone from the group is capable of winning the match for thecountry. Starting from captain (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni toiconic batsman (Sachin) Tendulkar to devastating (Virender)Sehwag to (Gautam) Gambhir, Yuvraj (Singh), Suresh Raina orYusuf Pathan ... it could be just anyone.

"We have an extremely well-balanced team and the bestpart is everyone seems to be in form," Kirmani told PTI.

Asked if a second wicket-keeper could have been a goodoption in case of an injury to regular Mahendra Singh Dhoni,the former stumper said it was not at all a worrying factor.

"We are playing in the sub-continent and in our ownenvironment so it would not be too difficult to bring in areplacement wicket-keeper immediately in case of a casualty.

So, probably taking this fact into consideration, theselection committee did not go in for a second wicket-keeper,"he said.

Stating that the current Indian squad is one of thefavourites to lift the Cup, the 61-year-old said he has beenhoping and praying for the last 28 years for the country tobring back the glory.

"We have a very good chance this time as our side is avery competent one. They are equally competent, if not more,than some of the other teams. We have been hoping and prayingfor the last 28 years for India to lift the Cup again and itseems that this team has it in them to fulfil the wish," saidthe former India Test cricketer.

Kirmani admitted that the four-time World championsAustralia will be a weaker side compared to India, SouthAfrica and England in the upcoming mega-event but cautionedthat the Kangaroos can never be taken for granted.

"You never know, Australia can come back any time. Youcan never count them out. Obviously, the experienced players,who won the Cup thrice for the country are not there anymorebut Aussies are in a process of re-establishing themselves.

"The youngsters will certainly take some time to reachthat level. So, as a team they definitely look a little weakerat the moment as compared to some of the stronger sides likeIndia, South Africa, England," he opined.

"But again if you look at the ongoing ODI series betweenEngland and Australia, the latter are doing well and theEnglish, who thought it would be a cake-walk for them aftertheir 3-1 Ashes victory, are finding it tough," added Kirmani.

Kirmani, who played 88 Tests, predicted that India, SouthAfrica, England and Sri Lanka would make it to the semi-finalsof the mega-event, starting February 19 in Dhaka but warnedthat there could be a few surprises as well. .

"The New Zealanders, Pakistanis and Australians could never be underestimated. Just like Australia, Pakistan alsohave some talented young players who can spring up surprises,"Kirmani said.

Asked to compare the current Indian side with that of the1983 World Cup winning team, he said, "Unlike ours, whichwas a weaker unit and were given a tag of the underdogs, thisteam is very strong."

"We never thought we would lift the Cup. We were the mostinexperienced team in the competition. We just aimed atqualifying for the knockout stage. That was the only thing onour minds. In fact, no body even expected us to reach theknock-out round also," recollected Kirmani, who was awardedthe best wicket-keeper in the 1983 World Cup.

"But we gained confidence when we won our opening matchagainst then reigning world champions West Indies by 34 runs.

After that game, we thought if we could beat the Windies inthe very first encounter, why should we look back?"

Attributing Indian team''s success in the 83'' World Cup totheir positive approach, consistency and complacency of otherteams, he said, "Whosoever we played they thought that we werea very weak side and took us lightly. But they were under awrong impression. They failed to realise that on a particularday we were the better players."

Looking back at his own most memorable contribution tothe team''s success in the 83'' World Cup, Kirmani said thematch where captain Kapil Dev scored unbeaten 175 againstZimbabwe to turn the tide in India''s favour, had him as asilent contributer at the other end.

"One of our most important matches of the tournament wasagainst Zimbabwe when India found itself reeling at 17 forfive with Kapil Dev trying to pull us out of troublesingle-handedly. At 140 for eight, I joined Kapil who wasplaying at some 50 plus score with another 30-35 overs more togo in a 60-over match.

"I walked in very boldly, as usual, without losing myconcentration and before I took the stance I just went toKapil and told him ''don''t worry, you just play your naturalgame and I will be at my best at the other end, giving you themaximum support and maximum strike. I will just take a singleand leave the deliveries for you to face''," narrated Kirmani.

"From there on it was one of the most fabulous knocks ofKapil that I have seen -- perhaps the most devastating one --and I gave him the strength and we remained not out till 60overs. He scored 175 and I scored somewhere between 23 to 30."

Kirmani, who remained not out on 24 till the end of 60overs, shared a crucial unbeaten 126-run stand for the ninthwicket -- a record in itself -- with Kapil, to help Indiareach 266 for eight and set Zimbabwe a competitive target.

Zimbabwe, in their chase, faltered and were all out for235 in 57 overs to hand over India a 31-run victory.

"This victory put us in the semi-finals where we beatEngland comprehensively and then went on to create history bydefeating West Indies in the final, which is needless to say,is one of the most memorable moments of my career and life,"concluded Kirmani.

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