New Delhi: India's list of 30 probables for the World Cup was trimmed down to 15 on January 19 and the chosen ones are ready to shoulder the hopes of millions and as some of them have said, win the World Cup for Sachin Tendulkar.
While MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel have played in one or more World Cups in the past, it will be a new experience for the rest; to be precise, seven of them.
All those first-timers will have to roll up their sleeves against the best in the business for a good part of two months to harbour any hopes of touching gold on April 2 when the final will be played in Mumbai.
The likes of Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan and R Ashwin are perceived to be the future of India and they have the talent to fulfill the dreams that India last lived in 1983.
One thing that makes this Indian team one of the hot favourites is the balance. They have the right mix of youth and experience in the squad and more importantly, all are hungry to taste success that is savoured by very few cricketers.
Hoping injuries stay away from the Indian bowlers, Zaheer Khan will spearhead the attack that is arguably perfect under the subcontinent conditions. Add to that Praveen's ability to extract banana swing, Harbhajan's expertise to spin a web and Munaf's ability to bowl with pinpoint accuracy, the Men in Blue have a more than useful, if not exactly lethal, arsenal.
The bowling bench strength also looks strong with Piyush Chawla, whose googlies can fox the best. Offie R Ashwin, though inexperinced in the ODI format, has given enough clues - in the IPL and Champions League - that he has it in him to be in the top-flight cricket.
But India's main strength remains the batting that runs deep with Yusuf Pathan, who will be trying to fill that pivotal No. 7 berth that once belonged to his younger brother Irfan. Virat Kohli's emergence has been most promising and he has come of age to almost command a place at No. 3 or No. 4.
The leader of the batting pack is undoubtedly the 'Milestone Man' Sachin Tendulkar who becomes even lethal when opening alongside swashbucking Virender Sehwag, with Gautam Gambhir walking in at one down. Yuvraj Singh's sublime touch can't be far now and MS dhoni, though subdued in the last couple of years, remains one of the most fearsome hitters of the cricket ball.
Fielding is the only palpable weakness of the team with quite a few slow movers in the side, mostly bowlers. Having said that, there are some exceptionally swift movers in the team as well, like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli.
Placed in Group B along with No. 1 ranked South Africa, Ashes winner England, underdogs West Indies and party poopers Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands, the hosts are expected to finish in top four easily and qualify for the quarterfinals alongside South Africa, England and West Indies.
But Dhoni & Co. won't forget what happened to them in 2007 in the Caribbean when their World Cup got over in the first round itself after they suffered a fatal crash against Bangladesh. And this time too, they open their campaign against the Dhaka boys on February 19 at Mirpur.
Feb 19: India vs Bangladesh at Mirpur
Feb 27: India vs England at Bangalore
Mar 6: India vs Ireland at Bangalore
Mar 9: India vs Netherlands at Delhi
Mar 12: India vs South Africa at Nagpur
Mar 20: India vs West Indies at Chennai
MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Yusuf Pathan, R Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel.