New Delhi: West Indies batting legend Brian Lara is mighty impressed with India's "allround" showing in their first two cricket World Cup matches and feels Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men need to keep up their good work in all three departments of the game if they intend to defend the title.
Brian Lara. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan by 76 runs in their tournament opener before registering an emphatic 130-win over tournament favourites South Africa in their second outing to be atop Group B at the moment. And like others, Lara too feels India in all likelihood will go as table toppers into the next round. "Most definitely (India likely to top Group B).
India is playing great cricket. The combination of their efforts on the field, with the bat and the ball. Somewhere down the line you find an Indian team suffering in one discipline of the game but right now their batting is great, their bowlers are doing what is necessary to win the games and the Indian fielding over the last few years has also improved, they are now on a different level.
"They playing very good cricket under the leadership of captain (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni. Their allround game is what is impressive and that's what they need to keep doing to win the World Cup," Lara told NDTV. Lara was of the view India hold a good stead in the ongoing World Cup jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand
as they now are better equipped to tackle the tough overseas conditions.
He also credited cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar, who has played record six World Cups, for showing the current lot of Indian cricketers how to fight and score runs on tough conditions. "In these conditions India many many years ago had problems. But their cricketers have grown out of that and I believe that's simply because of what Sachin Tendulkar has done to Indian cricket in terms of showing the fight and strength needed to play on any surface.
"The players are now following in his footsteps. The likes of (Ajinkya) Rahane, (Shikhar) Dhawan, (Virat) Kohli and skipper Dhoni all these guys are now accustomed to play in these tough conditions, bouncy pitches and I expect the Indian team to continue the way they are playing at present," Lara said.
Being a former captain himself, Lara is also closely following West Indies performance in the World Cup and feels Chris Gayle's return to form with a blistering double century against Zimbabwe in Canberra today augurs well for the Caribbean side ahead of tough clashes against South Africa and India.
Gayle bludgeoned his way into the history books by becoming the first player to score a double century in the cricket World Cup, smashing 215 off just 147 balls with the help of a record-equalling 16 sixes and 10 fours to help West Indies beat Zimbabwe by 73 runs via D/L method. Asked whether West Indies opponents now should feel
scared after Gayle knock today, Lara said: "Very much so.
Chris played very well. I felt he was a bit conservative in his first 100, scored it in more than a run-a-ball. But he took off after that and was great to watch. Marlon Samuels also played a very supportive role. "It is great for West Indies team at present. Their morale must be high now after the victories against Pakistan
and Zimbabwe. They have two very tough games coming up against South Africa and India. But Chris Gayle in form can always be a danger."
The destructive batsman was also involved in a record 372-run second-wicket partnership with centurion Marlon Samuels (133). "Marlon Samuels to me played a great role today. Gayle and Samuels formed a great combination today," Lara said. Lara, however, feels West Indian selectors made a big mistake by leaving out the duo of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the World Cup squad.
"It was a huge mistake. Those two gentlemen bring a lot to the team. Their performance might not be amazing all the time but I do believe that Dwayne Bravo really do have a very good record for West Indies. Pollard now is one of the big players in world cricket and he brings something else to the team. The confidence he gives to his teammates and his camaraderie in the dressing room are very important part," he said.
"Those two boys are very important to the psyche of the team. But let's hope that we don't feel the mistake we did. We can't change things now. But it was a step in the wrong direction for West Indies cricket."