Mumbai: Drawing inspiration from its last World Cup triumph, India is looking to win the upcoming tournament for Virat Kohli like the batch of 2011 won it for Sachin Tendulkar, feels former opener Virender Sehwag.
The ICC on Tuesday announced the schedule for the 50-overs World Cup here, which begins on October 5 in Ahmedabad with England and New Zealand playing the opening match, with the world’s largest cricket stadium also hosting the final on November 19.
Since winning the 2011 World Cup which Kohli was a part of, India have won only one ICC event — the 2013 Champions Trophy — and their wait for lifting a trophy in another global event has now lasted more than a decade.
“We played that World Cup for Tendulkar. We won the World Cup, and it was a great exit for Sachin paaji,” Sehwag said during an ICC event to announce the World Cup schedule. Virat Kohli is (now) in Sachin Tendulkar’s shoes. The way he plays, he talks, he looks after the others and the way he plays cricket with his passion, he is the one now. Everybody is looking to win this World Cup for Virat Kohli,” he added.
“Virat Kohli is the same now. Everybody will look to win the World Cup for him. He always gives more than 100 per cent. I think Virat Kohli is also looking (forward) to this World Cup.
“(About) 100,000 people will watch you at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. Virat knows how the pitches will behave. I am sure he will score a lot of runs and he will do his best to win the World Cup for India.”
With the country hosting the World Cup later this year across 12 venues wherein India will feature in nine different venues alone in the league stage, the expectations will be high for them to go all the way and end their drought.
Sehwag said India are favourites to win their blockbuster clash against Pakistan on October 15 in Ahmedabad because they can handle pressure comparatively better.
Sehwag said, “I feel that now India handles the pressure that is why they win whereas Pakistan have a burden that they haven’t won against India. In the 1990s, they were good at dealing with pressure but after 2000, India soak it better.
“If any player says that they don’t feel pressure, I don’t think it’s right. We used to say it too but at the end of the day, we know it’s an India versus Pakistan game and emotions run high,” he said.
Sehwag said players from countries like England and Australia tend to do well if the wickets are good but the same players struggle against spin.
“A player from the subcontinent has a better idea (of playing spin) than someone coming from outside,” he said, adding that India and Pakistan could end up playing a final before the final if they meet in the semifinals.”
Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan said since the World Cup is in the subcontinent, spinners will have a big role to play and agreed with Sehwag that India, England, Australia and Pakistan could be the favourites for the semifinals.
“I am looking forward to the India-England match, that will be a tough match. England is playing really well at the moment. India is one of the favourites in my mind because they are playing at home and they know the conditions really well. They know how to win in India,” said Muralitharan, adding that Adil Rashid would be his pick as the most successful bowler in the competition.”
“The subcontinent teams will be favoured by the wickets, a lot of good spinners are there. Afghanistan’s batting is not that great but their spin attack is tremendous. India and Sri Lanka have good spin attacks. In the subcontinent, I always believe there is a chance of two teams from the subcontinent coming into the finals, with the exception of 1987 when England and Australia came (in the final). Other than that, last time two best teams came into the final and the best team won in 2011,” he added.
Muralitharan added that a team from the subcontinent “has more chances” of winning the final since the tournament is being held here, which was seconded by Sehwag during the panel discussion.
The spin legend acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s current outfit — taking part in the CWC Qualifiers in Zimbabwe — are not favourites to win the World Cup title but added that they would pose a stern challenge to their opponents.
“It is unfortunate for a country like us to be playing the qualifiers,” said Muralitharan. “But I think Sri Lanka has a very good talent, they have good spin bowlers and good batsmen. Unfortunately we have not played up to our potential for the last 4-5 years. We had a successful Asia Cup but that is T20 cricket. T20 and 50 overs cricket is totally different.
“They are doing well in Zimbabwe at the moment. We will be a threat to all the good teams, we are not going to be pushovers. But winning the tournament, I have doubts because there are much better teams but you never know, in 1996 nobody counted us. Still, anything can happen. To win this cup, you need a little bit of luck,” said Muralitharan.
BCCI secretary Jay Shah said the World Cup starts with “gateway to the Northeast” Guwahati while announcing the venues. Guwahati, along with Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad, will host the warm-up matches.
“India versus Pakistan and the World Cup final will be at the Narendra Modi Stadium, which is the world’s largest sports stadium with a capacity of 132,000. We are going to have the semifinals in Kolkata and Mumbai,” he said.
“After 12 long years, this ODI World Cup is coming back to India. In 2021, we were the hosts (for T20 World Cup) but due to COVID-19 we held it in Dubai. We are excited to have this tournament back in India,” Shah added.