New Delhi: India are among the favourites entering the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, with a number of experts picking the Virat Kohli-led side to make the semi-finals at the very least.
Iconic former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev is among those who have backed the 'Men in Blue' to make an impact in the upcoming event in England and Wales, stating that the two-time champions have the right balance between youth and experience in their ranks, one that will play a huge role in their quest to regain the World Cup trophy.
"India has a combination of youth and experience. In a way, if you look at the other teams, they are more experienced. They also have the right balance in their team. They have four fast bowlers, three spinners. And you have Virat Kohli and Dhoni," said Dev in an event organised by Britannia in the national capital to unveil the first set of winners of their 'Britannia Khao World Cup Jao' campaign.
Dev sounded confident when he said that the Indian team have what it takes to leave an impact in the upcoming tournament. When asked whether Kohli could repeat the success of 1983 and lift the World Cup at Lord's, he said, "That should be something that every Indian cricketer follower should believe. Whether he will end up lifting the World Cup or not is something we can’t say for sure right now. But I certainly believe he will guide his team to victory."
Talking further on the Indian team and their prospects, Dev added that the 'Men in Blue' have a big advantage in terms of a well-rounded pace department, which consists of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The Indian pace unit has shown tremendous improvement in recent years, was a major factor behind India's 2-1 Test series triumph in Australia, and are now a big talking point in the build-up to the 10-team event.
"I think they are very good. English conditions will help them as well. They will be able to swing the ball, and Shami and Bumrah will be bowling 145-plus. When it comes to swing, we have. When it comes to pace, we have. I think that’s a very good combination of the team," said Dev, who led the Test wicket tally at one point with 434 scalps.
Meanwhile, plenty of debate has surrounded the number four spot in the Indian team over the last few months. While Ambati Rayudu had been backed for the spot since the limited-overs fixtures in the tour of Australia, he eventually fell out of contention after a dip in form, and the MSK Prasad-led selection panel instead picked 'three-dimensional' all-rounder Vijay Shankar for that position.
Dev, on the other hand, steered clear from the debate. He felt that no batsman can be a certainty for a position in limited-overs cricket except perhaps the opening slots, adding that the nature of the 50 and 20-over formats is such that batsmen can coming in at any given spot under the circumstances.
"After watching the T20 format, one doesn’t even know for sure who the opener and the No 4 batsmen are. I think it’s very difficult. Now their mind set is such that anybody can go. You remember when Dhoni went before Yuvraj in Mumbai (in the 2011 World Cup final).
"So I think in the last 10 years, cricket has changed so much that you can’t really assign a permanent spot to a batsman in this day and age, apart from openers. And even openers can be asked to come in at No 4," added the former captain.
He also avoided answering on whether the likes of Rishabh Pant or Shreyas Iyer should be picked in case the injured Kedar Jadhav gets ruled out, adding that the task should be left to the professionals, in this case the selectors.
Dev, who led an unfancied Indian side to an epic triumph over West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final, predicted India, hosts England and defending champions Australia to make the semi-finals of the 12th edition of ICC's premier tournament. The former all-rounder additionally stated that sides such as New Zealand and West Indies could spring a surprise in the mega event, and could possibly be the fourth team to enter the semis.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya has constantly been compared to Dev ever since he made his breakthrough into the Indian team. Pandya's aggressive strokeplay, handy medium-pace bowling as well as agile fielding have made him an asset for both the Indian team as well as the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
Dev opined that the constant comparisons with him have only added to the burden on Pandya's shoulders, and that an emerging cricketer such as him shouldn't be subjected to such expectations.
"He is still an emerging player. Secondly, please don’t add any extra pressure on him. He’s a young talent, playing his cricket with his own free mind rather than the burden of responsibilities and comparisons. I think their natural talent is very, very important. I don’t like anybody being compared with anyone," added Dev.