Will India win the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023? Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh weigh in

05 October, 2023
Will India win the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023? Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh weigh in

The image of Kapil Dev lifting the cup during the 1983 World Cup finals—after a truly unexpected and spectacular win against the West Indies—is etched in our memory. Twenty-eight years later, the solid team consisting of Harbhajan Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, and the likes, won the cup on home ground, and in style, leaving a billion Indians celebrating on the streets and crying happy tears. With the ICC Men’s World Cup beginning today, a recently held India Today Conclave became home to a conversation about the men in blue with former winners and veteran cricketers, Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh. We let you in on the much-anticipated discussion. 


Watch the full conversation here

Journalist and consulting editor, Rajdeep Sardesai, set the tone for the conversation with the most pertinent question of them all: What are the chances of the Indian cricket team lifting the World Cup on November 19 this year? The question was answered earnestly and hopefully as ever by the two legends. Gavaskar promptly responded, “It is definitely good enough and I hope that when the India matches come along, you will say a silent prayer on the day of the match so that India gets that little bit of luck. India can win the World Cup, no question about it. They’ve been in tremendous form—beating Pakistan by more than 200 runs and dismissing Sri Lanka in the finals.” There was a mutual agreement when it came to the potential of the team and Singh, too, spoke about bowlers such as Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami performing at their very best. 

The response to the second part of the question came in light-hearted humour as both, Gavaskar and Singh pleaded that they couldn’t read palms or faces and could hardly determine the exact trajectory of the team’s World Cup journey—we concur. 


So, what will it take for the team to push through to the finals? A power-packed performance and a glimmer of luck. Sardesai probed further and asked what did it take for the former winners to lift the cup all those years ago. “I think both these teams had world-class batters and bowlers, and also world-class all-rounders. That made a big difference because in the last overs, when the last few people are left to bat and if they can add runs, it pushes up your total,” said Gavaskar. They went down a nostalgic rabbit hole as they reminisced the record-breaking numbers achieved by the Indian team back in 1983, and propelled back to a few decades later when Singh, too, a bowler, scored centuries during his tenure. It was made abundantly clear that a World Cup winning team would need a mixed bag of players, who could play various roles when needed the most. “When your 8,9,10 can bat a bit, it makes you feel more confident,” said Singh, “The current England and Australia teams bat down the order, right down till 10, and we, too, have a long batting line-up.” 

The tête-à-tête had an insightful segment about the trials and tribulations of social media and the impact it can have on the team. Singh recalls how their coach Garry Kirsten had banned the team from reading newspapers or being exposed to what the press was saying about the team. Today, Singh has a similar recommendation for the team that will be playing in the tournament. “If they can do it, it will help them,” he said and went on to exemplify his advice. He spoke about Virat Kohli’s recent post on Instagram that requested fans to not bother him for tickets and other trivial considerations ahead of the World Cup. 

Of course, it remains to see whether Harbhajan Singh’s comment—one that exuded virality about the togetherness of the current team and the less-than nature of Kohli in comparison to Sachin Tendulkar—holds true. The conversation then forayed into a larger, more emotional, and almost patriotic discussion about playing for the Indian flag and not a particular captain or any other individual. “When the country prays for India, it’s never about hoping that Virat Kohli wins the match or Rohit Sharma wins the match, it’s about India winning the match,” he said. 


Technicalities, home-ground advantages, and favourite teams for the ensuing World Cup also took centre stage during the conversation before speaking about which players would shine the brightest this time around. For Singh, Suryakumar Yadav and Shubhman Gill seem as promising as ever and Gavaskar would definitely keep an eye out for Ben Stokes and Joss Butler of England. A foray into the big game against Pakistan wasn’t left untouched, and both Gavaskar and Singh expressed their confidence in the Indian team. 

With a firm belief in the potential of the men in blue and their incredible ability to reclaim the World Cup glory, the conversation ended on a rather light note with Sardesai asking them, if an ODI match were to be played with the 1983 team, the 2011 team, and the current team, who would win? “There are no diplomatic answers,” he said, adding a condition before the response. “On the field, difficult but off the field, 1983, hands-down will win—we were a team that had so much fun,” said Gavaskar and Singh wholeheartedly agreed. 

Here’s wishing the men in blue the best of luck and hoping they win the World Cup on home ground.