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Zaheer can replicate my 1983 dream start: Sandhu

By Pragya Tiwari,IANS,

New Delhi : Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who provided the breakthrough in the 1983 World Cup final by dismissing West Indies opener Gordon Greenidge, thinks Zaheer Khan can perform similarly Saturday in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka.

Late swing was Sandhu’s forte and there was no better place to show his expertise than in the heavy English atmosphere. He did precisely so on that Indian summer’s day at Lord’s when he foxed one of the greatest openers the game has seen with an in-swinger.

Sandhu feels the Zaheer has a knack of providing early breakthroughs.

“I hope Zaheer Khan could give India the kind of start we had in ’83. I think he has the ability to do that. He has developed into a thinking cricketer. He has the craft to outwit the best batsmen,” Sandhu told IANS in an interview.

“He is confident of his skills and I would be really happy if he is able to give India an early breakthrough.”

Sandhu said India have peaked at the right time and have shown the promise of repeating 1983 all over again.

“India are a good side. This is their best chance to win the World Cup. Sri Lanka may have variety in their bowling, but it all boils down to how you play on that day. India’s graph is constantly going up and they have peaked at the right time.”

Sandhu made a critical contribution with bat, too, coming in as the last man and putting on a valuable 22 runs with wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani to boost India’s total to 183. He then came out to share the new ball with Kapil Dev.

Goaded to talk about that historic afternoon at Lord’s, Sandhu said he came to know that he would be bowling with the new ball only when the team was going out to field.

“It was when we were coming out of the dressing room to take the field, that Kapil Dev told us that I will be opening the bowling with him. He said get me one wicket and your job is done. I was happy that my captain showed the confidence in me. I was thinking positive and wanted to live up to my captain’s expectations.

“I had troubled Gordon with my inswingers earlier in the Tests and ODIs on our tour to the West Indies a couple of months earlier by bowling from close to the stumps. So my past experience came in handy.

“I bowled outswingers before I pitched one exactly where I had pictured it mentally. Gordon was expecting it to be an outswinger, but the ball came in and he was bowled. It was a great feeling,” Sandhu said.

Sandhu said their sense of humour gave them the edge in the 1983 edition.

“Our sense of humour was our high point. We loved cracking jokes on each other. We had one line for those who felt bad, that ‘we are not laughing at you, we are laughing with you.’ It was a huge plus and helped us carry through pressure situations.

“Also, we were never bothered about what others were saying about us. You may call it arrogance, but it worked in our favour.”

Sandhu said while pressure of playing in the World Cup final is part of the job India should be relieved after winning the high-intensity clash against Pakistan in the semifinal.

“India will now be relaxed but, not complacent as they have come through a high pressure game against Pakistan. The pressure in a World Cup is always high as besides dealing with the expectations of millions of people, there are the players’ expectations. But nowadays the players have good support staff and they also have a sport psychologist. But then it always comes down to how you handle the pressure on that very day,” he said.