Munaf rates India hot favourite, says best chance to win WC

Shailesh Pandya

Vadodara, Feb 7 (PTI) Apart from having a balanced squad,familiar conditions and strong home support will be the keyfactors as India seek to win the upcoming ICC World Cup andbreak a 28-year-old jinx, feels seamer Munaf Patel.

The last time India won the tournament was way back in1983 under Kapil Dev, and Munaf said the quadrennialextravaganza starting February 19, will present the countrywith a golden opportunity to repeat that historic feat.

"All the 49 matches are to be played in India, Bangladeshand Sri Lanka. So the wickets, weather and public support willbe with us," Munaf told PTI in an exclusive interview.

"That is why I am of the view that our team is hotfavourite and this is a great chance, and such an opportunityof playing on home pitches and favourable conditions don''tcome everyday," he added.

"The sub-continent pitches would be of great advantage toIndia. The bowlers know the conditions too well and know whatto expect."

Going by the team''s performance in recent times, Munaf''sviews don''t sound far-fetched.

India beat New Zealand at home, drew the Test series withSouth Africa before giving a good account of themselves in theone-day series against the Proteas in their backyard.

"The team is very strong as it has some of the bestbatsmen, fit all-rounders and in-form bowlers who have beendelivering the goods consistently," said Munaf, who was bornjust a month after Kapil''s Devils made history on the fatefulevening of June 25, 1983 at Lord''s.

After spending considerable amount of time in thesidelines due to injuries, Munaf is now paying specialattention to his fitness as he is fed up of being aninjury-prone bowler.

Ever since coming back from injury, Munaf has been amuch-improved bowler, and he attributed the new-foundconsistency to maintaining a good line and length.

"I bowl in the right areas and focus on maintaining lineand length, which have helped me in getting wickets," Munaf,who could not perform to his potential in the last edition ofthe tournament due to injuries, said.

Like everyone else in the squad, Munaf too wants India towin the World Cup as a gift for Sachin Tendulkar.

The modest seamer has come a long way since being noticedby former India stumper Kiran More.

After being sent to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai byMore in 2003, Munaf returned a much better bowler and caughtthe eye on his Test debut against England. He got his maidennational call after picking up 10 wickets for BoardPresident''s XI against the touring English side.

Munaf, who played for Mumbai and Maharashtra besidesGujarat in the Ranji Trophy, looks up to senior teammateZaheer Khan for guidance.

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