Senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh believes that the team's impressive performance in South Africa will be of little consequence at the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.
"From my personal experience, I can tell you that our good show in South Africa may give us a bit of confidence but that's about it. Doing well in bouncy pitches in South Africa and playing in the Cricket World Cup is a different ball game altogether," Harbhajan told PTI in an exclusive interview.
To elaborate his view he gave example of India's tour to New Zealand in 2002 before the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
"If you remember, we had a disastrous tour of New Zealand where we lost in both Test and ODI series. But when we played in the Cricket World Cup, it was a different story. In fact, we completely dominated while we beat New Zealand and played in the finals. That's why I feel that a bilateral series can never be an indicator to a team's performance in a big event," the feisty off-spinner said.
Talking about Cricket World Cups and Harbhajan, who will be playing in his third, still fondly recollects the memories of the 2003 edition when the team reached the finals under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy.
"I sincerely hope that we can emulate our 2003 feat and even do one better by winning the Cricket World Cup. It will be a great gift for millions of fans. On our part, we can assure our supporters that we will give more than 100 percent when we get out there," he said.
When asked what was special about that 'Class of 2003', who looked unstoppable till Ricky Ponting singlehandedly took the final away from them, he said, "Have a look at the squad of 2003, you will find guys like myself, Zak (Zaheer Khan), Ashish (Nehra) and Viru (Sehwag) were all young having only played couple of seasons in international cricket.
"We were fearless and never believed that we would cow down under any sort of pressure. If you enjoy playing in pressure situations, you tend to give your best. That's what happened. Also we had seniors like Sachin (Tendulkar), Sourav (Ganguly) guiding us."
A veteran of 93 Tests and 217 ODIs, Harbhajan, who is now second in the list of seniormost cricketers after Sachin Tendulkar, feels like 2003, this time also India's Cricket World Cup campaign will depend a lot on how the likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan handle pressure situations.
"As a senior player, I have loads of expectations from guys like Virat, Yusuf and Raina. Just like we (Sehwag, Nehra, Zaheer, Kaif) were the youngest lot in 2003. These youngsters will be eager to show how well they can manage to hold their nerves on big stage.
"They have had enough exposure in international cricket and I am really hopeful that they would come up trumps."
On personal front, Harbhajan, nicknamed 'Turbunator', is happy that he is in a good frame of mind going into the big event.
"If you are an Indian cricketer, then you become adept at handling pressure. I have played long enough to not let pressure affect my game in crunch situations. It has come with years of experience at the international level," said the spinner from Jalandhar, who has 393 Test and 246 ODI wickets to his name.
His batting has been a revelation of late and one gets a feeling that his perspective towards batting has changed.
"My mantra is simple. If the ball is in my area, I will hit it. Earlier, the approach used to be a slam bang one and I would try to hit any delivery out of sight. Now I try to get my eye in first and then go for attack. Also, if I am batting with the batsman, I try to rotate and give the specialist as much strike as possible," Harbhajan said.
On various captains that he has played under in international cricket, Harbhajan terms Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ganguly as the two who always back their bowlers.
"Both Sourav and Dhoni have been able to get the best of out of me. The reason being both are good bowlers' captain. It is essential for a captain and his bowlers to strike a good rapport. In case of Sourav, he exactly knew what to expect from a Javagal Srinath, a Zaheer Khan or a Harbhajan Singh.
The same is for Dhoni.
"Another aspect is their faith in bowlers to let them set their own field. Both Sourav and Dhoni would allow me to set my own field which means the skipper has faith on my thought process," he added.
Asked whether figured out any difference between the two, Harbhajan said, "Yes, Dhoni can remain very calm in the most trying circumstances but Sourav was more expressive in his body language."
When the topic of Eden Gardens was broached, he became a touch sad.
"It is sad that we won't be playing in front of a packed Eden Gardens crowd which always behind you. It's one of my favourite grounds but there are things which are not under my control. What I can control is that, whenever I play at the Eden next, I would like to ensure the crowd that they will have smile on their faces," he concluded.