Why you simply can't write India off…

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 11, 2015 15:27 hrs

Consider some highly disheartening facts for Team India's chances at the ODI World Cup beginning in a few days. The last time India won any international match in any format was way back on November 16, 2014 when it beat Sri Lanka by 3 wickets with 8 balls remaining at Ranchi.

The last time India won an ODI match in either Australia or New Zealand (where the World Cup is being held) was way back on February 28, 2012 against Sri Lanka at Hobart thanks to Virat Kohli's crazy 86-ball 133.

That seems a pretty grim scenario.

However, if there is one thing that is in favour of the 2015 WC, then it is its ridiculous format. In the 1992 edition, all teams played each other and the best four made it to the semi-finals. With the form the Indian team is in, qualifying in such a format would have been a very tough task indeed.

However in the 2015 format, India is in a group with three weak and three strong teams. The top four make it to the quarter-finals. What this means is that even if India loses to the strong teams and wins with the weak teams, it still makes it to the quarters!

A league system where the Top 8 teams make it to the knockout stage is meaningless, but it suits India. Here's why.

South Africa is always consistent in the first half of a tournament, but totally loses it towards the end.

Australia is consistent right throughout any tournament against any team against any country. They don't care how a tournament is structured.

Pakistan is another team which can implode or take off at any stage of a tournament and they don't care for structures either.

India is a lacklustre team in the leagues but can be very dangerous in the knockout stage. South Africa has zero knockout wins in all tournaments combined while India has been quite consistent, winning knockout matches in the 1983 ODI WC, the 1996 ODI WC, the 2003 ODI WC, the 2007 T20 WC, the 2011 ODI WC and the 2014 T20 WC.

That's a hugely consistent performance and it spans tough countries like South Africa and England.

So a tournament where the top four make it to the next stage suits South Africa but the top eight making it suits India.

Another reason is India has big match players. We don't rely on one person in a crunch match.Anyone can do the trick for us.

In the 1983 edition, bowler Kapil Dev scored his only ODI century (a mammoth 175) that saved our skins. Roger Binny has only 77 ODI wickets and Madan Lal 73. That's nowhere in the all-time list. And yet they took 18 and 17 wickets respectively, the highest in the tournament.

In the 1996 edition quarter-final with Pakistan, Ajay Jadeja and Venkatesh Prasad shone. Joginder Sharma (who never bowled again in international T20s) bowled the last match saving overs of both the final and semi-final of the T20 2007 WC. The man of the match in the final was Irfan Pathan who also vanished from the scene.

India has no shortage of heroes who deliver when the chips are down. Just think of Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir who shone in so many World Cup crunch matches.

India's biggest advantage is that it probably has two of the biggest match winners in the world in the form of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. Both of them are in competition for being the world's all-time great ODI finishers.

Dhoni was the star of the 2011 ODI WC while Kohli top scored for India in the finals of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and 2014 T20 WC.

Rohit Sharma is the only man in the world with two double centuries. Some people called him a flat track bully, but at Melbourne a few weeks back he hit 138 off Australia and in the practice match against Afghanistan he hit a blistering 150 off 122. He is in sizzling form.

The fourth batsman to look out for is Suresh Raina. India's most consistent IPL hitter, he was a flop outside the sub-continent. However at Cardiff in England a few months back he scored his century off just 74 balls while in the practice match at Adelaide, he hit a fine 75 off 71.

What a time to come into form outside the sub-continent!

Our bowling attack may be battered in Tests but can hold its own in the ODI format and that especially goes for the spinners.

Once the quarters start, India will look a totally different team. You can count on it!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here