India - Defending Champions On The Back Foot

India - Defending Champions On The Back Foot
India is one of only three teams to have won the World Cup twice, along with West Indies and Australia.
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

India go into the World Cup losing four out of their last five One-Day-Internationals away, with one being washed out. That is not a really good stat to ponder over for the defending champions, who had won 3-1 against England in England, prior to their current poor spell.

India has an enviable 14-7 record in the last twelve months including a 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka. India’s away record is not good in terms of numbers, 7 - 10, since beginning of 2014, skewed further heavily, due to a whitewash over Zimbabwe and a 3-0 win over Bangladesh. India has also been humiliated in the ODI series in New Zealand, same time last year.

The odds are stacked heavily against a team that has been on an already long tour down under, playing four Tests against Australia and the Carlton Tri-series, England being the third team. While this gives India, a good look at all the pitches and the conditions, their team looks a little jaded and weary and the prospect of at least a month and in most cases, more, of being away from home. This daunting trip away from home, the pressure of being defending champions and a relatively bad form with an unsettled team all point to India probably failing to defend their title.

India goes into the tournament with an above-average batting line-up that is surprisingly doing well-enough even in alien conditions. What worries India though is their bowling, toothless at the moment and bitten by the lack of a genuine spinner capable of picking wickets consistently. While Axar Patel is economical and Ravindra Jadeja useful, Indian bowling lacks enterprise, weakened by the injury concerns around Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma along with Mohammad Shami’s ever-wavering potential.

Previous Tournament Performances:

India is one of only three teams to have won the World Cup twice, along with West Indies and Australia. India is the only team to have won the World Cup while hosting it. India also holds the record for highest total chased in a World Cup final, when they felled Sri Lanka at Mumbai’s Wankhede in 2011 to lift the trophy, under MS Dhoni, who was also the Man of the Match in the final.

Inspired by Mohinder Amarnath’s brilliance, India had, against all odds, lifted the 1983 World Cup at Lord’s, defeating in-form and huge title favorites, West Indies led by Clive Lloyd. India, under Sourav Ganguly, had also finished runners-up in the 2003 edition in South Africa losing to Australia, apart from semi-final appearances in 1987 and 1996.This puts them amongst the top four teams at the World Cup in terms of track record.

Group Fixtures:

15th February – India v Pakistan in Adelaide
22nd February – India v South Africa in Melbourne
28th February – India v United Arab Emirates in Perth
6th March – India v West Indies in Perth
10th March – India v Ireland
14th March – India v Zimbabwe

Recent Form: (last 10 ODIs)

(recent) L, N/R, L, L, W, W, W, W, W, N/R

Stats:

India is the only team to have won the World Cup while hosting it.

In World Cups, India have won 39 games from the 67 with a W/L ratio of 1.5.

The highest score recorded by India in World Cup history has been 413 against Bermuda in 2007 and the lowest being 125 against Australia in 2003. (Not considering the S/F against Sri Lanka in 1996)

Former Indian batsman, Sachin Tendulkar has been prolific in World Cups leading the run-scorer table with 2278 runs.

India are going with a relatively inexperienced squad with none of their batsmen or bowlers featuring in top 50 run-getters or wicket-takers respectively in World Cup history.

Squad:

MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma.

Coach: Duncan Fletcher

Players to Watch:

Virat Kohli is India’s trump card at this World Cup. Fearless and in prime form after a brilliant showing in the Test series, Kohli is amongst the very few surviving members of the 2011 winning team. Capable of handling pace and bounce, Kohli is expected to anchor the innings. The Indian think tank though, is still unsure of whether he should walk in at number three or number four, a decision that will well and truly depend on the availability of Ravindra Jadeja at number seven.

Ajinkya Rahane, India’s most consistent performer on the road, is all class. He could be opening the innings with Rohit Sharma, considering Shikhar Dhawan’s string of bad performances at the top. Rahane is India’s most prolific run-getter in ODIs over the last 12 months, with 863 runs at an average of 39.

MS Dhoni had scores of 19, 34 and 17 in the recently concluded Carlton Mid ODI series. He has retired from Test cricket. This is most definitely his last ODI World Cup participation. If India are to reach the semis at least, they need their talismanic skipper contributing consistently at number six. The conditions and the format are both in his favor and it would be surprising if he goes through the tournament without creating a major flutter.

Prediction:

India open their World Cup campaign with two tough matches, against Pakistan and then title favorites, South Africa. Assuming India finishes second in their pool, they are looking at a quarter-final clash with England or Sri Lanka (assuming Australia and New Zealand top the other pool). If the team plays to its potential and the bowling doesn’t undermine the quality of their batting, India are likely to reach the semi-finals, if not further.

Conclusion: One thing that works in India’s favor is that no one, except the die-hard fans, expects them to make the finals, leave alone win the cup. They could take heart from the way Sourav Ganguly’s men turned the tables after a dismal New Zealand tour to reach the finals in South Africa, winning all their matches except the ones against Australia. If India has to go all the way, it would probably be on the back of some superlative batting!

© Cricket World 2015


 
 
 
 
 

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