Team India kickstart their ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 campaign on 8th October, Sunday, taking on Australia at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. The two-time World Cup champions will be eyeing their third trophy, after last winning the 2011 edition and having come agonisingly close in 2019. All eyes will be on Rohit Sharma and co. as they aim to go one step further this time around.
In our build up to the mega event, we caught up with our Royals and took them on a walk down World Cup memory lane. And since India is set to play in Chennai with an Ashwin already in the squad, it only made sense to catch up with another, leggie Murugan Ashwin.
Excerpts from the chat:
Your favourite memory of India in a World Cup? Where were you watching?
Of course the 2011 World Cup is something which I followed very closely because I watched all the matches. One can't forget the winning six of Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni). And the quarter-final match where Yuvraj Singh scored that match-winning knock against Australia is a fond memory of mine when it comes to the World Cup. I remember watching the game at home on TV with my family, and as the evening went by, we were getting closer to winning. It was special because Australia has always been a tough team to beat so once India won that quarter-final, I knew we would go on to win the final.
A player knock/spell in a World Cup that inspired you and has stayed with you growing up...
For me, it was Shane Warne's spell in the tied game against South Africa in the 1999 World Cup. He took a four-wicket haul that was crucial for Australia as he took key wickets. That has been really inspiring for me as a leg-spinner. But I think Zaheer Khan in 2011 was also phenomenal. It hasn't been spoken much about, but he laid the foundation for the Indian team because he picked a wicket in every match and even in the final, he set up the game. So that inspired me in terms of how as a bowler, you can dictate terms and sometimes you don't get recognised for it.
The last time you watched India play in Chennai...
My memory of watching Team India in Chennai goes a long way back in 2001, where we played a Test against Australia. That was one of my first experiences of watching a Test match live at the stadium. It was the old MA Chidambaram Stadium, which was far from what it is now. We used to carry binoculars to watch because it was far away from the centre. We had to win this match to win the series, after the epic Calcutta Test. Harbhajan Singh took 15 wickets and we won the match as well as the series, so it was a brilliant experience.
Thoughts on the present-day conditions in Chennai and predictions for IND vs AUS...
I think post the IPL, not many matches have been played at Chepauk, so the wicket would be fresh and will hold good. We have to look at the pitch closely to determine how exactly it is. It has also rained two days before the match so that could affect the nature of the wicket. But it will be a good one and I'm predicting a total of between 280-315 for the team batting first.
Lastly, a word on the 'Knowledgeable Chennai Crowd' and what to expect from them on Sunday...
Yes, the spectators at Chepauk have always recognised good cricket, whether it's for the home team or the away team. And the opposition teams have also attested to this, they love coming in and playing in front of the Chennai crowd. Considering this is the first time since 2011 that India will play a World Cup match here, I'm hoping the fans turn up in huge numbers for the first game, support the team and appreciate the good cricket on display.
(As told to Team Rajasthan Royals)