Unfit India not favourites for 2011 World Cup

Last Updated: Wed, May 19, 2010 05:50 hrs

​If one thing has emerged from the ruins of the T20 World Cup, it is that Team India is not a favourite for the ODI World Cup in 2011.

In terms of tournament form, we don’t even appear to be in the top three in world cricket right now. We have failed to make it to the semis of three big ICC tournaments in a row: 2008 T20 WC, 2009 ICC Champions Trophy and 2010 T20 WC.

Australia continues to rock on…

So who are the favourites then?

Is it possible for a team to win four straight world cups? Well that’s not in the realm of impossibility anymore as Australia appears to be peaking at the right time. While South Africa and India in turn captured the No. 1 status some time back, Australia has quietly returned to the top. It sits at 134 points as against second-placed India, which is lagging at 122.

Steve Waugh retired before the 2003 World Cup, Shane Warne left before the 2007 edition, while both Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath retired before the 2009 ICC Champions trophy. It didn’t make any difference to the Australians. They won all three comfortably. Three WCs and two mini WCs in 10 years is mind-boggling and there is really no indication that they are done yet.

In other teams, England have finally broken their World Cup jinx, while both Sri Lanka and Pakistan look good and always do well in the sub-continent. South Africa is always a good team, and they’ll be eager to break their own jinx, which appears far greater than the one England had.

Poor Hosts, Rich Travelers

Interestingly, being the hosts, history is against us. We used to be called poor travelers, but that was only in Tests.

In ODI tournaments featuring six teams and above, we save our worst for home and best for away. Arguably, our three greatest wins are: The 1983 ODI World Cup (England), the 1985 World Championship of Cricket (Australia) and the 2007 T20 World Cup (South Africa). There’s also the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy of which we were joint winners (Sri Lanka). All are away.

What of home soil? In the 1987 World Cup, we collapsed in the semis. The 1989 Nehru Cup saw us being thrashed by the Windies by eight wickets in the last four-stage. Semi-final Kolkata, 1996 WC, was probably our worst moment. Trailing 131 runs to Sri Lanka with just two wickets in hand, we lost by default thanks to a stadium riot. Vinod Kambli was left in tears pleading with the crowd. We also failed to make it to the semis of the only ICC Champions Trophy to be held in India in 2006.

While it is true that the 2011 edition will be held jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, we’ll be playing most of our matches in India.

F for Fitness, V for Victory

As the post-mortem of the T20 World Cup continues, it’s heartening to note that IPL fatigue and short balls on fast pitches won’t be an issue next year. There was also talk of bad selection and mediocre captaincy. Giving all credit to the selection committee, most of them are ex-senior cricketers and they do try their best. After the recent debacle, they’ll be more circumspect and hopefully will get it right next year.

When it comes to captaincy, MS Dhoni’s best and worst have been in T20s. In Tests and ODIs he’s been consistent and stable. There’s nothing much one can do about that too.

But there’s one thing that rankles really badly. That is the problem of fitness. Not only did the team in West Indies look jaded, but they looked totally unfit. They looked overweight, lethargic and listless.

You could say the fielding was bad, but that is a direct result of fitness or lack of it. Contrast this with three absolutely stunning catches that England took in the final to put Australia at 8 for 3. That probably won them the final. The BCCI would do well to crack down on the issue of fitness. Maybe even bench the really unfit players who refuse to shape up. That’s where the trainer and physio have to be taken more seriously.

That way the decision to send a second string team for the Zimbabwe tour may not be such a bad idea. It will rest the seniors and give some international exposure for the newcomers. As it is, it is immediately follows the Asia cup and the Sri Lanka Test tour.

A fit, fresh and raring team along with a slice of good fortune is the only way MS Dhoni can lift the World Cup in Mumbai next year.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.