S S Ramaswamy
Mumbai, Jan 31 (PTI) Sachin Tendulkar would be crucialto India''s success in the upcoming World Cup and the MahendraSingh Dhoni-led side was far ahead of the history-making''Kapil''s Devils'' in terms of talent and experience, feelsmember of the 1983 Cup-winning side Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
Sandhu said apart from Tendulkar the present Indian teamhas plenty of match-winners in Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan andskipper Dhoni, who are capable of turning things around from alosing position.
"Tendulkar would be totally focusing on this World Cup.
He knows this is his last World Cup as four years later he maybe mentally fit but may not be physically there. He would givemore than 100 per cent and would be very keen to perform. Theman is known to prepare well. His work ethics are superb.
Others will get inspired by his presence," Sandhu told PTI inan interview here.
"The guy (Tendulkar) will not allow the team to becomplacent, like Sunil Gavaskar did in 1983. There are alsobrilliant players like Yuvraj, Yusuf and Dhoni who can bringthe team back from a losing position," the 54-year-old formerpacer said.
Comparing the current team to the 1983 World Cup-winningside, Sandhu said, "In our days we (bowlers) had to think onour feet, be good observers. We had to study the rival batsmenby watching other matches where they played and form astrategy. Now this is done by the support staff with the helpof the video analysis and the players have to implement thestrategy.
"Talent wise today''s team is way ahead. For example, interms of ODI experience, a player like Sachin Tendulkar hasalone played more matches than all of our team members puttogether." .
Sandhu was also of the opinion that smart thinking was needed to make the best use of batting powerplays and Indiashould field only one frontline spinner in Harbhajan Singh.
"Teams should be smart in using the batting powerplayswhich can make a big impact. If there are too many spinners inthe side when the powerplay is taken, the team will be introuble.
"I expect India to field three seam bowlers along withHarbhajan Singh as the lone spinner with the remaining 10overs shared among floaters like Yuvi and Raina," he said.
He also felt that part-timer off-spinner Pathan should beencouraged to bowl his quota of 10 overs as it can make up forthe poor form of one of the other bowlers.
Sandhu, who opened the bowling with skipper Kapil Dev ona regular basis during India''s triumphant run to the title 28years ago, is confident with help from the team''s supportstaff, the players would be to able handle pressure.
"There are people in the support staff to take care ofhow to handle pressure. Pressure will be there but they shouldgo out and enjoy playing. They have performed well over theyears and should be relaxed," he said. .
Sandhu is of the opinion that the sub-continent wickets may not help spinners as much as is generally believed exceptfor the new venues.
"Except for new centres, I expect the wickets to be wellsettled. The ICC is handling these things and they will ensurethat matches remain competitive till the end, till 95 overs,for commercial reasons," he said.
He also feels that four-time champions and holdersAustralia start as dark horse in the mega-event startingFebruary 19 in Dhaka.
"Australia will be the dark horse in the tournamentfollowing their victory in the ODI series against England.
Their players are well versed about Indian conditions due totheir regular stints in T20 cricket (IPL) and they can gettips from coaches (in IPL) who are mostly Australians," Sandhusaid.
Sandhu backed Australia, hosts India, England and eitherSouth Africa or Sri Lanka to make the semifinals in cricket''sshow-piece event that ends on April 2.
"I am not backing Pakistan as I feel Pakistan do wellonly when they have a strong captain who leads from the front.
Currently their team appears to be a divided side and theyhave not even named the captain," the Mumbai-born former Indiaplayer said. .
Recalling those heady days nearly three decades ago, Sandhu said the team''s confidence got a boost after it beatthe all-conquering and mighty West Indies led by Clive Lloydat Berbice in Guyana before the World Cup.
"Those who went to the West Indies (a few months beforethe Cup in England) were confident we could beat the WestIndies if we played well. We were not overawed by that team.
The Berbice victory was a major confidence booster," Sandhuremembered.
"We knew the West Indies panicked if they lost quickwickets. My job during the Cup was to get an early wicket ortwo and, if I remember correctly, we won all the games inwhich I took an early wicket," said the bowler, whorepresented the country in eight Tests and 22 ODIs.
Sandhu, who took eight wickets in the tournament thatIndia won by turning the form book upside down, is rememberedto this day for the ball with which he got rid offhard-hitting West Indian opener Gordon Greenidge in the finalat Lord''s on June 25, 1983.
Greenidge shouldered arms to the in dipper from Sandhuand was bowled neck and crop to start a slide that ended withIndia shocking the West Indies by 43 runs in a low-scoringsummit clash.
"Everyone talks about that ball but to me that is notthe best ball I have bowled in international cricket. That, Ifeel, was the ball with which I bowled Haroon Rashid ofPakistan in a Test match. The out swinger pitched leg andmiddle and took the off stump. That is a more difficult ballto bowl," Sandhu said. .
Staying down memory lane, Sandhu said Kapil Dev''s masterly 175 not out, which pulled India from a tottering17 for five in a do-or-die league clash against Zimbabwe atTunbridge Wells, was the turning point for the team.
"Kapil''s 175 not out was the turning point. After we wonthat game we knew we could do it. The victory over the WestIndies in the opening game was also a big morale booster. Wealso won all our practice games barring one against Sri Lankawhich also gave us lot of confidence in the run-up to thetournament," he recalled.
"We knew if we played to our potential we can win. Sunil(Gavaskar), Yashpal (Sharma) and Mohinder (Amarnath) werethere to steady the innings while the other strokemakers werethere to play their shots," he added.