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Chappell, Dravid exude confidence

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BRING IT ON: Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell were optimistic of India's chances on the eve of the Indian team's departure for the World Cup.
BRING IT ON: Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell were optimistic of India's chances on the eve of the Indian team's departure for the World Cup.

Nandakumar Marar

Australia still remains a big threat despite the recent reverses

MUMBAI: On the eve of the Indian team's departure to the Carribean, coach Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid said Australia would remain a big threat despite recent reverses.

"Australia will probably be a bit more hungry, a bit more determined than before. I would have preferred them to have won against England and New Zealand so that they would have come to the World Cup over-confident," Chappell said, in a media briefing at the BCCI's Cricket Centre.

"The defeats suffered by Australia just go to show that New Zealand is a good side and that England are improving. The return of key Australian players for the World Cup will strengthen the team, along with those getting the opportunity to display their talent. I would not be surprised if someone like Stuart Clark comes up with outstanding performances," Chappell said of Brett Lee's replacement.

Still favourites

Dravid said the recent losses could not wipe out earlier performances. "Australia still start as one of the favourites. We in the Indian team are not getting too excited about Australia's recent losses. You can't wipe out their achievements on the basis of performances over just two weeks." He added that the world champions team for the World Cup would include experienced players who were missing in the recent matches.

Dravid said that a mix of youth and experience was needed in a World Cup team. "Wise, old heads are needed. The Indian team is a good mix of talented youngsters and experienced hands."

Despite Sri Lanka being the only established squad in Group B (Bermuda and Bangladesh complete the group), the Indian skipper ruled out easy matches.

"There are no weak sides in one-day cricket. A few teams may be less experienced. Till you play them, you will never know about such teams.

"After all these inexperienced teams get a chance to play in the World Cup once in four years."

Close games

Chappell said he expected a lot of close games. "Experience and flexibility will be the positives needed at the World Cup. Eight teams are even, resulting in close games, what I refer to as middle-score games."

The Indian coach said he was happy with the team departing for the World Cup. "Pieces of the puzzle fell into place over the last few weeks. Regarding Pathan, it is just a matter of him striking form and there will be enough opportunities."

Dravid expressed satisfaction at the resources available in the fast bowling department. "Munaf Patel is an accurate bowler, Sreesanth has wicket-taking ability, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar are bowling well and Irfan is the all-rounder option we have," said the captain, heading for the third World Cup of his career.

Different roles

Dravid has had to take on different roles within the team, playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman in 2003. This would be the first time he is in charge. "Captaincy means more responsibility, more things to look into and more decisions to be taken," he said on his new role.

Chappell said he was excited going into the World Cup. "I am as excited as anyone to be coaching in a World Cup for the first time. There is no point talking about my World Cup debut as a player (1975 World Cup) because it happened so far back. I am looking forward to the experience this time, which I am sure will enhance my cricketing education as far as coaching is concerned."

Indian team managers Sanjay Jagdale and M.S. Pandove were also present at the World Cup briefing. The team will leave for the West Indies on Wednesday and play warm-up games against the Netherlands (March 6) and the West Indies (March 9).

India will play Bangladesh (March 17), Bermuda (March 19) and Sri Lanka (March 23) in the league stage of the World Cup.

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