After MS Dhoni became captain, Team India has overcome a truckload of jinxes. The "first time ever" and "after so many years" list is steadily growing. What else can you expect of a captain who debuted right with a World Cup trophy?
In Tests, he's thrashed Australia 2-0 twice, won on New Zealand soil after 40 odd years and taken us to the ICC No. 1 rankings. In ODIs, he's beaten Australia in Australia in a triangular and won the Asia Cup after 15 years. We also became No. 1 in the shorter format of the game, even though for a brief while.
Despite loss, Team India are peaking at the right time
Of course, next month's World Cup is the toughest of them all, especially owing to our poor home record. In the 1987 semi-final we lost by 35 runs. The 1996 semi-final was worse. We were trailing by 131 runs when the match was called off due to crowd trouble. In the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, we failed to make it to the semis.
Here's hoping for a totally different 2011.
Dibbly, Dobbly, Wibbly and Wobbly
In the 1992 World Cup, New Zealand's medium pacers thrived on home conditions. The four-pronged attack was dubbed Dibbly, Dobbly, Wibbly and Wobbly. Chris Harris, Gavin Larsen, Willie Watson and Rod Latham made medium pace really cool. In fact Harris, Watson and Larsen were among the leading wicket takers of the tournament, taking 37 wickets between them.
Will Indian spinners be able to turn on the heat throughout the tournament? If the Kiwis had their Fab Four, then India have their Effective Eight, if you include the part-timers. In this double quartet, the main troika is Bhajji-Ash-Piyu. The fifth bowler is Tendlya-Viru-Yusuf-Yuvi-Raina.
India can bowl 50 overs of spin if it wants to!
The IPL has shown how spinners can sweetly choke batsmen. They don't get hit all around if they play their cards right. It's now time to put to use all that guile for the Big One.
No first time nerves for these dudes
When a team enters a World Cup final for the first time, you usually see a case of the nerves. In fact, South Africa choked in the semi-final stage itself in 1999 in a match they should have seen through. India looked out of sorts when they played in the 2003 finals.
Thanks to the 2007 T20 WC title, the Indian squad has five players who have won in a World Cup final: Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.
In fact, should we get that far, Yuvi and Bhajji will see their third WC final. Other players from the 2003 final are: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.
The experience should certainly help.
Ponting vs Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are going neck-to-neck as far as WC records are concerned. While Sachin has 1796 runs in 36 matches, it's 1537 in 39 for Ponting. Both have four centuries each (so has Sourav Ganguly). Sachin realistically has a chance of scoring 2000 runs. That would be some milestone.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
One record where Ponting is way ahead is captaincy. He has led his team in 22 WC matches. He now has a chance to go past the record 27, held by Stephen Fleming of New Zealand.
Trivia: Ponting is yet to lose a singe WC match as captain! He has a mind-boggling 100% record for his 22 matches. Steve Waugh has not only been matched, but also doubled.
What will be the IPL effect?
This will be the first ODI WC after the debut of IPL and that too in the home of IPL.
So what will be the IPL effect?
Higher team scores? Six of the Top 10 WC scores took place in 2007. Will 2011, better that? The conditions certainly will help. Indian pitches always have the potential to dampen firebrands like Dale Steyn and Brett Lee.
More sixes? Yusuf hit six sixes in the New Zealand match in December and eight sixes in the last ODI in South Africa. Those are ominous signs.
Spin dominance? In the IPL, spinners mastered the art of containment. Can they do the same here?
More bonhomie? The IPL led to the thawing of international player relations.
So will we have a friendlier World Cup?
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.