15 February 2015
India ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide
Defending champion looks to batsmen to fi find prolific run-scoring form on the quicker Australian and New Zealand pitches
This time around, India has had a luck-less tour of Australia, but is itching for a turnaround in fortunes as it prepares to defend its crown.
India has had a unique ability of lifting its game by several notches in the build-up to an ICC event. In 2011, the team headed into the ICC Cricket World Cup at home on the back of a One-Day International series loss to South Africa, but won the tournament. Even in 2003, when it reached the final, it had a poor tour of New Zealand just before. And in 1983, when it won the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time, it was not even among the top teams in the world.
This time around, the side has had a luck-less tour of Australia, but is itching for a turnaround in fortunes as it prepares to defend its crown.
In between, the side has had a tremendous run at big events. At the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, India edged England out in a tense final in Cardiff. A year later, the team finished runner-up at the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Clearly, the team has a penchant of performing well at big events, something Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, touched upon during his arrival press conference.
"You reach the quarter-finals, have three good days, have a bit of luck and you could win it. I may make it sound easy but certainly the team is capable. If Virat Kohli has a great run and Dhoni has a great run anything is possible.”
After just a solitary win, against East Africa, across the first two editions – in 1975 and 1979 – the team caught the world by surprise as it stopped West Indies in its tracks in 1983. While memories of Kapil Dev with the trophy on the Lord’s balcony are still fresh in the minds of India’s cricket fans, Dhoni’s winning six to win India the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup is the sort of stuff legends are made of. In between, India reached the semi-finals in 1987 and 1996, both in home conditions, while the Sourav Ganguly-led side finished runner-up to Australia in 2003.
The lowest of lows came in 2007 when India lost two group matches to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to be knocked out in the first round. In 1992, India, under Mohammad Azharuddin, couldn’t get past the pool stage in Australia and New Zealand, while in 1999, also under Azharuddin, the side reached the Super Six stage.
Pool: India is in Pool B, along with Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.
Captain: MS Dhoni
Coach: Duncan Fletcher
Only four members of the current squad – Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Ravi Ashwin – have had the experience of playing in a World Cup. But that isn’t to say the rest are inexperienced as India has groomed a side carefully over the last 12 months.
Although an ankle injury ruled Ishant Sharma out of the tournament, replacement Mohit Sharma provides some capable fire-power with the ball. India has long wished for a genuine seam bowling all-rounder, which Stuart Binny could be, but he’s still a rookie at the top level, as is Axar Patel, which means Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin will have their task cut out in the spin department.
That said, there’s not an iota of doubt that the side’s batting is top notch. India’s record of chasing over the last two years has been phenomenal, and the team management would be hoping that the trend continues at the World Cup.
Dhoni likes continuity and has often expressed his wish to have every squad member get an extended run in the lead-up to the World Cup. The ability of the players to thrill and frustrate in turn notwithstanding, the selectors have shown patience with a number of them over the last two years and that has often borne fruit, especially in the batting department, as exemplified by Rohit Sharma.
Unlucky to miss the bus in 2011, Rohit has emerged as one of the pillars of the batting, twin double centuries in ODIs enhancing his reputation. Ajinkya Rahane at the top, and Kohli’s presence along with Raina and Dhoni in the middle, gives the order a power boost. The team’s penchant of chasing down tall totals is sure to give the opponents something to think about.
India’s form in the build up to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup has been anything but sparkling. The tri-series against Australia and England, which served as an ideal preparation for the event, ended in disappointment as the side didn't make the final. The Test series prior to that wasn’t too encouraging either as India lost 0-2 despite playing well and dominating on occasion.
Yet, the side would draw inspiration from its string of victories against West Indies and Sri Lanka at home, where a relatively young side, led by Kohli, dominated from start to finish.
Star Player: Virat Kohli
Picked in 2011 on the back of solid performances in the limited-overs arena, Kohli thrilled on World Cup debut by smashing a century against Bangladesh. Sizeable contributions in all the other matches, including the final, meant his role even within a team of superstars was clearly defined. The dynamics are different now and he would have to be the pivot around which the middle order revolves. Aggression is his middle name, and India's new Test captain has shown he can walk the talk.
One to watch out for: Axar Patel
Growing up in Nadiad, an hour away from Ahmedabad, Axar Patel picked up the game’s basics playing tennis-ball cricket after school at the age of 16. The rise has been meteoric, as he made his India debut less than four year later, against Bangladesh in June 2014.
Although Axar considers himself a batting all-rounder, his performances with the ball went some distance in ensuring his selection in the national team. Axar has been miserly with his left-arm spin and his height makes him an interesting proposition on surfaces with good bounce. Ravindra Jadeja’s absence has allowed him an opportunity to establish his credentials in India’s ODI side.
Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni - Co-owners of FC Goa and Chennayin FC respectively in the Indian Super (football) League
Umesh Yadav - He started playing cricket in Nagpur after unsuccessful attempts at becoming a policeman and an army officer
Ravi Ashwin - Is one of India’s lead spinners, started his career as a batsman and even opened for his state side Tamil Nadu at the Under-17 level
Fans from both countries would agree that it doesn’t get bigger than this. Some even consider this a final before the final. Both nations come to a standstill when the sides clash. With India having a decisive edge, having beaten Pakistan on each of the five previous occasions the sides have met at an ICC Cricket World Cup, the pressure will be on Misbah-ul-Haq and his boys to break the jinx. More importantly, it will set the tone for both sides as they get into the tournament.
Scott Styris’s Prediction: India: Quarter-Final
India has traditionally struggled in the southern hemisphere and I can’t see it progressing past this point. They have Virat Kohli, who is arguably the best batsman in the world, and a top order which is still scary when they all fire together. Lack of penetration with the ball I think will hold them back. Any team with MS Dhoni in it must not be taken lightly as he has proven he is a match winner in every tournament there is to win.
”I think whenever you play one-day cricket, India will always have a chance. You look at the batting, they have a strong line-up. Moreover, ODIs are a lot easier than Test cricket so bowlers will also do well. I've earlier said also this is the best possible team at the moment." – Sourav Ganguly, former India captain.
"I think MS Dhoni and the Indian team have always been successful, especially under his leadership. I have no doubt that India will be one of the toughest teams to beat. They gave some extremely gifted players. So I think their time in Australia will help them.” – Michael Clarke, Australia captain.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
February 15: Pakistan, Adelaide
February 22: South Africa, Melbourne
February 28: United Arab Emirates, Perth
March 6: West Indies, Perth
March 10: Ireland, Hamilton
March 14: Zimbabwe, Auckland
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