The game's followers hope Dravid's team would emulate Kapil's Devils of 1983
The highlight of India's show in 1983 was the toppling of the Windies in finalDravid's team will have to surmount high expectations and some tough opponents
Mumbai: The Indian team left for the West Indies for the World Cup carrying a billion hopes and prayers of the country's cricket-crazy fans.
The game's followers hope Rahul Dravid's team would emulate Kapil's Devils of 1983 by returning home with cricket's biggest catch.
Twenty-four years ago, a team that was hardly expected to cause a ripple in cricket's showpiece event, turned the game upside down with its sterling show.
The highlight of that brilliant display was the toppling of two-time world champion the all-conquering West Indies from its pedestal in a memorable final at Lord's.
Burden of expectations
That team did not have the burden of expectations as the cricket fans in the country then were yet to be bewitched by the shortened form of the game.
The players themselves did not believe they had the wherewithal to conquer the world and were thus able to perform without the added pressure of huge expectations.
The triumphant run of that team despite a few hiccups on the way has since transformed the lukewarm interest of the fans in the one-day game into something akin to religious following.
It is this extreme pressure that Dravid's team will have to surmount as well as the tough opposition on the field in the West Indies to make its tryst with eternal glory.
Anything less than a title triumph will be considered a failure, perhaps unfairly, by the vast majority of the fanatic followers of the game in the country.
Four years ago, the Indian cricketers, many of whom are part of the present squad, had a bitter experience of what a poor run could lead to in the form of a violent backlash from fans back home.
The house of Mohammad Kaif, who is not part of the current team, was even stoned by irate fans after the Sourav Ganguly-led squad huffed and puffed to beat a weak Netherlands in the opening league match and then lost timidly to Australia.
Coming as it did after the team's disastrous outing in New Zealand a few months earlier, the fans' anger knew no bounds.
Sachin Tendulkar, who was later named the Player of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, even had to utter a public statement that the squad would try its level best to return home with the Cup to assuage the hurt feelings back home.
There was a dramatic turnaround in its performance thereafter and the team went all the way to the final before bowing to the superior all-round skills of the Ricky Ponting-led Australians.
The fans then were quite satisfied with the vastly improved performance of the team even though it lost in the final, but the hype surrounding the current team is such that many followers expect an Indian summer in the Caribbean.
Coach Greg Chappell and captain Dravid have built a squad that seems well-rounded in batting and bowling, with a fair number of players keen and available to perform multiple tasks, somewhat similar to the utility members of Kapil Dev's 1983 side.
Quite a few in the current team may not be around when the World Cup returns to the sub-continent in 2011, and the West Indian sojourn offers them the best chance to add the game's crowning jewel to their list of trophies.
But as Chappell said so succinctly, the potential to adorn themselves with glory is there, if the players withstand the pressure. Will it happen is the all-important question.