| Excerpts from the interview: |
Q. Is this the most open World Cup you can remember?
A. Yes. There are no clear favourites, it's absolutely the most wide open World Cup I have been a part of. Any one of the top eight teams is capable of winning. It's all about momentum. If the momentum is with you at the right time, everything clicks. Then, it's not necessary to have played good cricket for 8-10 months, it's just a matter of 8-10 important games. If that momentum lasts through the tournament, then the job is done.
Q. How much of an unknown factor are the relaid wickets in the West Indies going to be, even to teams like India who toured there last year?
A. I think they will still be an unknown factor but once wickets are relaid nobody knows how they are going to play. Normally surfaces take time to mature... I'm obviously not an expert here and I hope the tracks are good because this is a big event, it's the biggest event around.
Q. Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble and you are part of a generation that now owns all the records in Indian cricket: team records, batting, bowling. So in a sense the World Cup must be unfinished business for all of you...
|"It's not necessary to have played good cricket for 8-10 months, it's just a matter of 8-10 important games. If that happens in the World Cup, then the job is done." |
"In the 2003 Cup people thought the team wasn't trying. That was rubbish."
"If somebody wants to help us, they will tell us directly and not through TV."
"In the past, you hit 25 shots, got one opinion; now it's one shot, 25 opinions."
A. The World Cup is not only my dream, the team's dream, but the nation's dream. But dreams I think are fulfilled when you're awake, not when you're asleep. All of us want to make our presence count and try and contribute the best we can. We will try our best and there should be no doubt about that. I just want to say that during the 2003 World Cup people had this view that the team was not trying its best and all that rubbish. Nobody wants to go out and fail. People shouldn't get those thoughts in their minds. I hope it doesn't happen again.
Q. Anil Kumble has said the World Cup will be his last ODI tournament. Have you thought about giving up ODIs to prolong your career?
A. I don't know... at least, as of now nothing like that comes to my mind. I am taking things as they come. Specially before such an important tournament I don't want to think about anything else other than what is ahead of us.
Q. How are you enjoying vice-captaincy again? Should the situation arise, would you be keen on a third shot at captaincy?
A. I've not gone that far right now, but I felt the World Cup is a big tournament, the biggest tournament. I wanted to make myself available in whatever capacity the team needed me and not think about anything else. People have obviously formed their opinions... but I was not thinking of those things when I made the decision. I was told that I'd be the vice-captain because of my experience for the series against West Indies, Sri Lanka and the World Cup. Virender Sehwag was vice-captain earlier, followed by Laxman and at that stage both of them were not part of the team. That's why it came to me.
Q. The World Cup seems to bring the best in you: your average is close to 60 in the World Cup as opposed to your career average of 44.12. What makes the World Cup different?
A. I don't know, maybe it's just a coincidence... I suppose the more games you play, the tougher it is to maintain the average and at the World Cup, it's been, what 32-33 games? Probably my average as an opener may be slightly different from the overall average.
But the World Cup immediately feels different because of the atmosphere around it. Normally, you don't see all the teams in one place. Here, the moment you get to the first venue, you meet all the other players, there's the big group photo, everything builds up.
Q. What does the team make of such huge expectation before the Cup that has only increased?
A. The general reactions that we get from people have always been extreme. But those reactions have multiplied a million times as compared to 10 years ago. Today, the way, the intensity with which people react is different and it's because there are so many channels running cricket programmes for 24 hours. You play one shot and you have 25 opinions. Earlier, there were 25 shots and one opinion.
Q. The spotlight has remained on you in every Cup you've played but it seems to have become more harsh recently. Is your response anger, impatience or defiance?
A. Basically, I'm not out there to prove to these guys... I don't need to get into that. I have my own expectations and want to prove to myself that I can be part of the team and contribute in the manner that I feel would make me happy, rather than looking at what makes others happy. What makes others happy may not be the team's requirement. Eventually, what I contribute to the team's overall performance is what matters and not what XYZ is thinking about. I don't watch these TV programmes because they don't help you in any way. If somebody wants to help us, he or she will come to us and tell us directly, not through TV.
Q. How much has cricket changed from your first Cup to now?
A. Hugely. To start with, there were no computers then. In 1992, I didn't see any laptop. We played with two new balls and the game changed there. There was no bouncer rule. Now it's just one an over. The totals are higher now probably because of playing with one ball. That also depends on the kind of surfaces you play on. In Australia the runs will come down a bit, probably in India and West Indies, where the tracks are slower and the ball retains its shine for longer, the totals will be higher.
Q. Which World Cup is a personal favourite for you? Was it 1992 when you made your debut at 18?
A. I enjoyed the most in 2003 because the team played fantastic cricket and other than Australia, we beat all the sides we played. If you keep winning, then you tend to remember and cherish every moment.
In 1992, to be honest, I was too excited; I don't remember the first time I walked into the ground... I was playing guys like Malcolm Marshall for the first time. It was a wonderful feeling. I am one of the lucky ones who has played against the top four allrounders: Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham and alongside Kapil Dev.