Pressure will be on us ahead of Indo-Pak World Cup clash: Venkatapathy Raju
Former India left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju has said that the pressure will very much be on India when they take on Pakistan in their first game of the 2015 World Cup, on February 15 at the Adelaide Oval. The former national selector feels that the Men in Blue will have to live up to huge expectations going into the game, having never lost a match to Pakistan in the World Cup apart from the fact that they enter the competition as the defending champions. Pakistan, meanwhile, have nothing to lose and can express themselves on the field.
"India have done better in the recent past as compared to Pakistan but being the defending champions and the fact that they have not lost a game against their arch-rivals in the ICC World Cup, I believe the pressure will be on us. Pakistan have nothing to lose, we have everything to gain,” Raju told PTI in an interview.
Raju was a part of the Indian contingent when the World Cup was last held Down under, but believes that the game has transformed a great deal between then and now.
“There is a lot of difference between 1992 and now.Because at that time there were no boundary ropes, the restrictions were only four in the circle. Now there are five fielders inside the 30-yard circle throughout, the power-plays, all these have come in. The biggest concern is the drop-in wickets and we don't know how they are going to behave,” he said.
He also said that he expects India to make it to the final four, but wasn't sure about who the other 3 teams would be, before adding that the teams from the subcontinent will have to play exceptionally well in order to make considerable progress at the mega event.
"India should feature in the final four but I can't predict the top four, maybe top-six I can count. Teams like Australia and South Africa look like the two best sides because of their bowling and batting.
"New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, are the ones who are also looking like featuring in the top-six, but sub-continent teams will really have to play good cricket to compete with the rest,” Raju said.
The players have time to maintain their fitness levels: Raju
Like in 1992, the Indians have been involved in a gruelling Test series and tri-series before the World Cup, but Raju believes that the current outfit have got sufficient amount of time to recharge their batteries before heading into the quadrennial event.
"In 1992 we had a very long tour. We played five Test matches and then the tri-series. The tri-series then was very long and we also played quite a few four-day practice games before the World Cup. This time at least they have time so they have to maintain their fitness level and play their best cricket,” the 45-year-old said.
Commenting on India’s bowling prospects, he said: "There is a bit of gap between the tri-series and the World Cup and that could go either way for the bowlers. They can either get their rhythm back or totally lose it. Injuries is also a cause of concern because the bowlers need to be match fit. The bowlers have to be attacking due to the latest ICC rules of field restrictions.
"You cannot call somebody to fill in the gap if anybody is getting hit. Even these if you see the so called part-timers, they pick wickets. That happened to us when Yuvraj Singh played in the last World Cup and he picked up a lot of wickets with his left-arm spin. The length and the variation of pace will be very very important whether you are a pacer or spinner,” he added.