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Munaf rates India hot favourite for WC

Vadodara: Apart from having a balanced squad, familiar conditions and strong home support will be the key factors as India seek to win the upcoming ICC World Cup and break a 28-year-old jinx, feels seamer Munaf Patel.

The last time India won the tournament was way back in 1983 under Kapil Dev, and Munaf said the quadrennial extravaganza starting February 19, will present the country with a golden opportunity to repeat that historic feat.

"All the 49 matches are to be played in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. So the wickets, weather and public support will be with us," Munaf told PTI in an exclusive interview.

"That is why I am of the view that our team is hot favourite and this is a great chance, and such an opportunity of playing on home pitches and favourable conditions don`t come everyday," he added.

"The sub-continent pitches would be of great advantage to India. The bowlers know the conditions too well and know what to expect."

Going by the team`s performance in recent times, Munaf`s views don`t sound far-fetched.

India beat New Zealand at home, drew the Test series with South Africa before giving a good account of themselves in the one-day series against the Proteas in their backyard.

"The team is very strong as it has some of the best batsmen, fit all-rounders and in-form bowlers who have been delivering the goods consistently," said Munaf, who was born just a month after Kapil`s Devils made history on the fateful evening of June 25, 1983 at Lord`s.

After spending considerable amount of time in the sidelines due to injuries, Munaf is now paying special attention to his fitness as he is fed up of being an injury-prone bowler.

Ever since coming back from injury, Munaf has been a much-improved bowler, and he attributed the new-found consistency to maintaining a good line and length.

"I bowl in the right areas and focus on maintaining line and length, which have helped me in getting wickets," Munaf, who could not perform to his potential in the last edition of the tournament due to injuries, said.

Like everyone else in the squad, Munaf too wants India to win the World Cup as a gift for Sachin Tendulkar.

The modest seamer has come a long way since being noticed by former India stumper Kiran More.

After being sent to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai by More in 2003, Munaf returned a much better bowler and caught the eye on his Test debut against England. He got his maiden national call after picking up 10 wickets for Board President`s XI against the touring English side.

Munaf, who played for Mumbai and Maharashtra besides Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy, looks up to senior teammate Zaheer Khan for guidance.

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