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Monday, January 31, 2011

World Cup will be our gift to Sachin: Harbhajan.

Ace spinner Harbhajan Singh believes Team India has got what it takes to win the World Cup. And, like most of his colleagues, the 30-year old off-spinner too has a childhood dream to hold on to the most cherished trophy in One-Day cricket. In an exclusive chat with TOI, Bhajji feels India has got what it takes to become champions. Excerpts:

This will be your third World Cup, but the first one at home. What's the feeling like?

I'm really excited and just like the entire country I am also looking forward to it. It is always great to play and perform before the home crowd. Already, the World Cup fever is catching up with each passing day. The atmosphere will be great and there will be a lot of support for us. I hope we play good, consistent cricket and jell as a team.

With the big stage comes the burden of expectations and the pressure to perform . . .

But, as a professional, after playing international cricket for 12 years, you learn to deal with things. Handling pressure and performing well in big games is what every good cricketer looks forward to and it's the same for me. It is natural for the people to expect us to win every game, but we have got to stay focused, be relaxed and take it one game at a time. Having said that, I believe we've got the team to beat any opposition any day.

Do you reckon slow pitches will come handy for Indian spinners at home?

I won't say handy, but yes, we have the edge in home conditions. Don't forget One-Day cricket is a batsman's game. Also, the small grounds means small boundaries and that will be a handicap. Besides, wickets in Bangalore and Nagpur are known to have good bounce for the pacers. As a matter of fact, good bowlers will do well in any conditions. At the end of the day it's about a bowler's skill and the variations he can come up with to take on the batters. Take 'PK' (Praveen Kumar) for example. He is a street-smart cricketer and he thrives in most conditions because of his ability to move the ball.

You are a key player in the Indian line-up. Are you nervous?

Not nervous. You can say there are some butterflies in the stomach. That's because you are keen to do well for your team and for your country. The key is to stay relaxed. This is my third World Cup and I have gone through the grind before. There will be pressure to perform and no one denies that. As a player, and as a team, we have a mission to accomplish. We've got to keep our cool and work hard in every game. It will be extremely important for us to stay in the moment. We need not get ahead of ourselves.

Recently you have played some match-defining innings for India. Do you now fancy playing the big shots?

It is great fun to play the big shots and provide the necessary fireworks. But it doesn't make sense to play to the gallery every time. As a senior player, it is important to play as per the demands of the situation. If I have to stay put and rotate the strike, I am happy to do that. If needed, I relish using the long handle as well. What is important is to finish the game and be on the right side of the result.

This may well be Tendulkar's last World Cup. Do you share his dream of winning it and give him a parting gift?

Yes, of course! It's not just Sachin or me or Dhoni. It is a nation's dream. We have a great side with plenty of match-winners. We have the skill, passion and desire to go all the way. We just need to work hard, stay cool, and, as I said earlier, stay in the moment. As for Sachin, the entire country knows his contribution towards the game. So, winning the World Cup will not only mean fulfilling everyone's dream but that will also be Team India's biggest gift to Sachin Tendulkar.

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