For Indian cricket fans, heart rules over the head
Kolkata, Feb 13 (IANS) The jury is still out on whether skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys would be able to recreate history Down Under, but their legions of fans seem confident of the Indian team rescaling the summit at the cricket World Cup, beginning on Saturday.
Plagued by injury concerns and poor form, the going has been tough for the defending champions. The experts and critics may well be sceptical about India's chances, but the fans back home and across the globe are banking on captain marvel Dhoni to bring out yet another rabbit from his feathered hat.
"Everyone has been very sceptical about India's chances but I believe in Dhoni. He is used to pulling the rabbit out of the hat and I won't be surprised if he does so again," said Amit Yadav, a team leader in a call centre in New Delhi.
The defending champions have been going through a torrid time in Australia where they lost the Test series 0-2 and failed to make it to the final of the One-Day International (ODI) tri-series. Their sequence of losses halted only against minnows Afghanistan, that too in a warm tie.
However, the fans are not ready to give up.
"No one gave India a chance in the 2007 T20 World Cup but we emerged champions. With batsmen like Virat Kohli and two-time ODI double centurion Rohit Sharma, we have enough ammunition to be the world beaters yet again," says Satya Prakash, a Kolkata-based fan.
But for some cricket enthusiasts, the pinnacle of the quadrangular showpiece is the high-octane India vs Pakistan match at the Adelaide Oval on February 15. For them, a victory against the arch rivals is as good as winning the Cup.
Justifying all the hype, the tickets for the eagerly-awaited contest were sold out in 20 minutes for the 50,000-capacity stadium, with the South Australian government expecting around 20,000 Indian travellers for the marquee clash.
"For me the tournament actually starts on February 15 when India will once again carry forward the legacy of beating Pakistan in the World Cup. Becoming the world champion is matchless, but the feeling of seeing my team triumphing against the arch-rivals is equally satisfying," says Nitish Sharma, who is already in Adelaide for the much-awaited clash.
Well, there are innumerable Nitishs who are confident of India, enjoying a 5-0 score line against Pakistan on World Cup clashes, maintaining its superiority.
"We may not have a Virender Sehwag, a Yuvraj Singh or a Sachin Tendulkar, but it's the World Cup, and Pakistan can only beat India in their dreams," says Virat, a Presidency University student in Kolkata who is banking on his namesake (Virat Kohli) to deliver the goods against the traditional foes.
Notwithstanding what their heart says, there are others who believe India don't have the wherewithal this time to defend their title.
"The reality is harsher than what the heart says. Without the likes of Sehwag, Sachin and Yuvraj, India will not be able to stand up to the might of fast bowlers on bouncy Australian and seaming New Zealand wickets," says Biswanath Samaddar, a retired teacher.
There are others who too are sceptical about India's chance. They point to a weak bowling attack and a jaded looking side that is coming into the mega event after enduring a drubbing at the hands of Australia.
"None of our pacers have looked threatening. We lack a genuine all-rounder and our batsmen have been struggling. To compound the misery, we have Dhoni whose leadership skills have come under the scanner. I would be mightily surprised if India make it to the knockouts," said Priyanka, a homemaker.
Notwithstanding the grim reality, the fans have been drumming up support for the team. From buying jerseys to cheering their heroes on social media, the cricket-mad country is totally behind the team.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)