India cricket team will be making its debut at the Over 50s World Cup slated to be held in South Africa from next week. The tournament will be played in Cape Town and Stellenbosch from March 11 to 24.
Skipper Shailendra Singh, who will be leading the Indian team, is confident of a good show from his team who would be going into the tournament as an "underdog".
"I feel that the excitement of being 50+ and getting once in a lifetime opportunity to represent India has made every team member a 25 year old at heart. The entire team is raring to go and while on paper we may be the underdogs, we feel that we have a fantastic opportunity to surprise our oppositions," Singh told IANS in an exclusive interview.
In the tournament, India are placed in the 'B' Division with countries like Pakistan, England and South Africa. Division 'A' includes Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, among others.
India will begin its campaign in the tournament against England on March 11.
"We have a special strategy in mind, especially for our first game against England as they are one of the favourites at this year's competition."
Singh, who has captained Bombay Gym for 15 years, also feels that being a 50-plus tournament, fitness of the players will play a major role and that's why they have concentrating on their diet and health to stay fit for the competition.
"As it is a 50+ format, fitness plays a key role, especially considering it will be a 45 over game. My entire team has spent 70 per cent of this time on fitness and 30 per cent on cricketing skills in the last 60 days," Singh said while speaking about the fitness regime of the team.
"It is also very critical for us that we focus on the nutrition supplements and regular inflow of vitamins and nourishing liquids at this age nutrition and hydration are very critical," he added.
Singh also expressed his excitement over the India-Pakistan clash and said: "An India-Pakistan clash, as you correctly said, is an all-time favourite for the audiences at home and on the ground. But for us, we are attacking it just as another league game at the World Cup and not letting the spectators' mind-set hype this game for us."
"Instead we are basing our plans on the face value and the potential of the Pakistani team and its players.
"For us our tough opponents in the league phase are England and South Africa," he added.
The Indian skipper further hopes that the legacy of country's success at the global cricket stage would be their biggest strength at the tournament.
The inaugural Over-50s World Cup featured eight teams in 2018 and was won by Australia who beat Pakistan by just three runs in a tense final in Sydney. The tournament is not recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
"I celebrate the spirit of Australia because it's a sporting nation and it shows in its decision making as even after winning the World Cup last year.
"If it gets down to a match between India-Australia at this World Cup, I would put my money on India because we not only have the spirit but also the blessings of 1.3 billion Indians," Singh said.
This year's tournament will be contested over 42 matches with 45 overs per side, and the final will be played on March 24.
Squad: Shailendra Singh (c), Iqbal Khan, Mayank Khandwala, Parak Ananta, Tushar Jhaveri, Ashwani Arora, Preetinder Singh, Aadil Chagla, PG Sunder, Pradip Patel, Verinder Bhoombla, Thomas George, Sanjay Beri, Deepak Chadha, Dilip Chavan and Srikanth Satya.