India are the favourites, says Imran Khan

first_imgFormer Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan considers India the favourites for the 2011 World Cup due to be held in the subcontinent from February 19 to April 2, 2011.Khan, who was in the capital on Thursday with other former World Cup greats Kapil Dev, Sir Vivian Richards and Arjuna Ranatunga, said, “India are the favourites and Sri Lanka come a close second.”But he followed the statement with a word of caution for the team. “Every now and then the best team in the competition comes under pressure. And then it’s all about coping with it, especially during the knock-out stage.”Khan, who had led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 edition, cited India’s example. “India won in 1983 as they were better able to cope with the pressure than the West Indies (the other finalists).”Ranatunga, however, said Sri Lanka are the clear favourites. Explaining his point, he said, “We are one of the favourites. No doubt, India have too many cricketers to pick from, but they can panic in front of their home crowd.”The home factor is largely missing for the Sri Lankans as the three venues where Sri Lanka will be playing their homes matches during the knock-out stage are new.””In that case, I would request the crowds to stay at home,” said Kapil Dev, taking a jibe at Ranatunga.For Dev, the presence of Sachin Tendulkar in the squad was enough to scare the best of the sides away. “He is the most important cricketer in the team and he leads from the front.”advertisement”People have been saying that it is his last World Cup, but I don’t think so. I want him to carry on.”Tendulkar apart, he remained largely noncommittal. When asked to identify a trump card in the side, he said, “There are so many of them. It depends on how they perform.”  When pointed out that Harbhajan Singh was not performing as per expectations, he said, “He can come back to his peak anytime.”But, he felt that a tour just before the World Cup wasn’t the ideal situation for the team. “They (India) should not play so much cricket as there is always the possibility of sustaining an injury ahead of the tournament.”Khan, however, disagreed. “A good tour ahead of the World Cup builds the team’s confidence. As far as injuries are concerned, that can happen anytime.”Recounting his experience during the 1992 World Cup, he said, “I was training very hard ahead of the World Cup and I was very fit even though I was 39 then. But as luck would have it, I got injured during the nets just a day before the tournament was to begin.”For Richards too, India are the favourites. “There main players are not playing in this series against New Zealand and yet they are winning. This speaks volumes about their bench-strength.”And for Richards, Virender Sehwag stood out from the rest. “He is the most devastating cricketer today,” he said.On a personal front, Richards said, “West Indies players do have the talent and I am hoping and praying for them.”Khan hoped his team fares well despite the fact they are going through a bad patch. “If Shahid Afridi hits a purple patch, he can pull it off. But I am not too sure if he can pull it off, but if there is anyone who can, it has to be Afridi.”He was also clear on the fact that the team would be missing their two strike bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, who figure in the spot-fixing scandal. “I don’t know what is the status on them, but I am hoping they come clean.”last_img read more