'India Favourites to Retain Twenty20 World Cup'


New Delhi, May 27: India will be overwhelming favourites to retain the Twenty20 World Cup as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys had huge successes in international cricket in the last couple of years and are well-equipped to handle pressure, feel former internationals Wasim Akram and Sanjay Manjrekar.

"This Indian team has learnt to handle pressure. Just because they are favourites does not mean that they will choke. Australia won the World Cup three successive time since 1999 and they were favourites on all the occasions. The way India have performed in last two years, they have shown that they cane do the same."

"India have been consistently performing in all the three format. They are not dependant on only one or two players. When we toured India in 1999 we knew how important was Sachin Tendulkar's wicket. But now they have got a huge back-up like Australia used to have and that has given them the belief in their ability," said Akram, former Pakistan captain here Tuesday.

Manjrekar also said that India "look the best team on paper" and better placed to win the championship compared to the inaugural tournament where they were underdogs.

"In the inaugural World Cup, India had just started playing the format. They have experience in the ranks now. Players like Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma are more dependable. They are a stronger team and worthy defending champions."

Though the former Test player said that Gautam Gambhir's form is bit of a concern.

"I felt that Gambhir was slightly low on confidence in IPL. Virender Sehwag did not make much runs in IPL, but he looked in good touch."

Asked whether he will put his money on India, Manjrekar said: "No. I will put my money on India in Test and one-day cricket, but if you ask about T20 I will put my money on my pocket because the format is so unpredictable."

Manjrekar said that India will not have any additional pressure to defend the crown.

"The Indian team that won the World Cup in 1983 was under pressure as defending champions because there were other teams who were better in world cricket that time. If you remember West Indies came immediately after the World Cup and thrashed us. But it is different in this case. India have been very successful since winning the T20 World Cup in South Africa," the former Indian Test player said on the sidelines of an ESPN STAR programme.

"It has now become Dhoni's second nature to go with big expectations."

Akram said that Pakistan and England will put up a better show in the tournament.

"Pakistan have a chance. They have not played international cricket for a long time and they are hungry for success. They lost to Australia in the One-dayers but they won the Twenty20 in Abu Dhabi. They have got variety in their bowling attack in Shahid Afridi, spinner Saeed Ajmal, who has been cleared to play, and Shoaib Malik."

"Do not forget that Twenty20 cricket started in England and they have more experience than any other team."

"It is very difficult to pick a winner in this format. Any team who will play play consistently well throughout the tournament will win."

About Australia's chances, Manjrekar said that Ricky Ponting's team is still to take Twenty20 seriously.

"I have a feeling that they are not as committed to Twenty20 as Test and one-day cricket. For them Ashes which will start immediately after the World Cup and One-dayers are more important."


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