ICC World Cup 2011: Dhoni backs long format of tournament
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave the thumbs-up to the World Cup format, saying the gaps between matches would help players recover from minor injuries to allow him field the best XI.
On the other hand, several of Dhoni's counterparts felt that adapting quickly to the subcontinent conditions would be a challenge in the 45-day tournament being played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. "What's good is that all the teams are looking in good nick. And the format... there are long breaks in between [matches]. What it means is that if you play and have a bit of a niggle you can really recover and we all can always field our best XI. That's a big plus point for us. I think it will be an open tournament and the team that will play consistent cricket over the 45 days will lift the World Cup," Dhoni said.
"A lot has been said about the gap that exists between matches. So we will look to go to [see] some historical monuments during these gaps," he said, in a lighter vein, at a press conference here where captains of all 14 teams were present.
Dhoni also made the opening remarks after Australia captain Ricky Ponting. "The next 35 to 45 days will be really interesting for cricket because it's a mega event. Of course, you know that it will be held in sub-continental countries where cricket is among the biggest sports. I welcome all the other teams and ask them to enjoy the hospitality of the subcontinent and at the same enjoy cricket," he said, dressed in navy blue team blazer.
When asked about his reaction to Suresh Raina coming close to missing the flight from Chennai to Dhaka, Dhoni said he was not too concerned. "Not really when you have a squad of 15 you don't really mind it," he said. "Anyway there is always someone to give a lift to a cricketer in India. I didn't worry so much about it; just hoped all was well with him and which was the case."
Ponting admitted that a few senior players were not in the team due to injuries, but hoped that the replacements would step into their shoes well to fill the void.
Aiming for a fourth straight World Cup title for Australia - and his third successive as captain - Ponting said that he was confident that his team can go all the way to retain the crown if it adapts quickly to the conditions and the crowds of the subcontinent.
"Conditions we faced in both practice games [in India] were difficult. But we are actually quite happy going into our first game against Zimbabwe [in Ahmedabad on Monday] since arriving in the country two days before our first practice game," he said.
"We are looking ahead to the tournament. We are very proud of our record in the subcontinent as far as ODI cricket is concerned."
Andrew Strauss, who captained England to an Ashes win over Australia but lost the ODI series 1-6 Down Under recently, agreed with Ponting on adapting to local conditions quickly. "The conditions here are very different from what we encountered in Australia.
The key is to make the adjustments very quickly. There are not going to be any easy fixtures in this tournament," he averred.
Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara said that the real test for teams will come in the quarterfinals and semi-finals.
"In a World Cup, you have got to be better than all the teams, not just the teams that you have mentioned [India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka]. Playing in from of home crowds and home grounds for most of the games will be quite important for us," he said.
"At the same time, the format itself means that if you manage to qualify for the quarter-finals, you've got a good chance to play two good games to get into the final. Consistency is the key, but if in the quarterfinals and the semifinals you get that it will be the most important thing."
Bangladesh captain Shakib-al Hasan said he has set high goals for his team. "We want to play the whole tournament. We had very good preparations in the last two-three weeks and guys are confident and they all are fit. We are looking forward to the tournament."