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This team is similar to 03, settled, fearless: Ganguly

Kolkata: Former captain Sourav Ganguly sees a lot of similarity between India`s 2003 and 2011 World Cup squad and said just like eight year ago, the present outfit is also fearless and has a strong batting line-up which makes them one of the title contenders.

Ganguly feels with such a combination at its disposal, India has the potential to make it count in cricket`s showpiece event, starting February 19 in Dhaka.

"Like 2003, this time also we are in the right frame of mind, we have a settled side which has been doing well for sometime now. The team is equally good and strong and have the potential to go all the way," Ganguly told PTI in an interview here on Tuesday.

"We have a very strong batting line-up with a lot of match-winners in the side. It`s a very strong side," he said.

The former left-hander, who came tantalisingly close to leading India to the World Cup title eight years ago in 2003, however refused to make any predictions for the upcoming mega-event.

"Personally, I don`t believe in terming any favourites.

It`s a tournament where last three games — quarterfinal onwards — will make a difference. Australia, India and South Africa look very strong," said Ganguly, under whose leadership India made the finals in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, where they lost to Australia.

"I see Pakistan as darkhorse, Sri Lanka too can be very strong in these conditions. Also, I expect Bangladesh to put up some good shows. They are an improved side now. But I see all the top teams making the last eight stage. From there on it can be anybody`s game on a given day," he added.

Recalling his memories of 2003, Ganguly said, "We had a very good and strong side and we played well throughout the tournament. We beat every team except for Australia (in the final). We played fearless cricket. All players were in form, the way the team got together was excellent."

Ganguly also said that he did not regret his decision to bowl first at Australia in the title clash in 2003, where they went on to lose the match by 125 runs after conceding a huge 359.

"I still maintain it was not a wrong decision to put Australia in to bat. It rained overnight, the condition was damp. If you remember, the match started late because of seepage under the covers. It (the ball) did seam a bit in the morning but they outplayed us completely. We bowled short on that pitch. It is always easier to look back and ponder over a decision," he said.

"I always felt 260-270 was gettable but it is always going to be difficult to chase 350-plus in a World Cup final.

It was disappointing not to win the Cup in 2003 as we had the side," Ganguly said.

Talking about the debacle in the 2007 Caribbean World Cup, where India failed to progress beyond the first round, Ganguly said the team`s loss to Bangladesh in the group stages shook the morale of the side.

"2007 was a different story. We were never there. We did not start well and the team was dealt a huge blow after going down to Bangladesh. Thereafter the team lacked confidence and that became the turning point. The team was not settled with players going in and going out. There was an air of uncertainty," he viewed.

Ganguly further said that the Super Eight format made it more difficult for India in the 2007 World Cup.

"The format was such that only two team from the groups could make the cut. After losing to Bangladesh, we were on the backfoot and it was difficult to recover," he recalled.

"This time, the format is very good and allows every team a fair chance. Even if you had one bad day, there is time to recover."

Ganguly said India had improved immensely under Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s captaincy.

"Mahendra Singh Dhoni has done very well as captain. He backs his teammates, supports them which helps in bringing the best of the side. Also, he has a very good side under him," he said.

"The batting is really strong with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni. I hope things go well and it`s important from India`s point of view that players remain fit through out the long tournament," Ganguly added.

Asked how he viewed Tendulkar`s approach towards the upcoming World Cup, which appears to be his swansong one, Ganguly said, "If it`s his last World Cup, I hope he goes on a high. He has done well for the country for so many years and I hope he does well to make it a really memorable one."

Ganguly also said that the inclusion of S Sreesanth in place of an injured Praveen Kumar, who has been ruled out for the tournament, would bolster India`s bowling attack.

"Sreesanth will definitely boost the bowling line-up.

It`s a big setback to lose out on Praveen Kumar. The fast bowlers need to perform well because there will be a huge responsibility on them," he concluded.

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