Millennium Post

Australia, SA India’s biggest threats

Australia, SA India’s biggest threats
Home favourites Australia and in-form South Africa will pose the biggest threat to India’s title defence as they seek to assert their supremacy in cricket’s showpiece event, the ICC World Cup, which gets rolling with a double header in Melbourne and Christchurch on Saturday.

Besides the top-ranked Australian side, South Africa will once again begin their quest to shed the chokers tag that they have been carrying since their re-entry into international cricket, in the 11th edition of the quadrennial extravaganza.

While four-time winner Australia will be pitted against traditional rival England at the MCG, co-hosts New Zealand, still looking for an elusive triumph, will lock horns with 1996 winners Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval on the first day of the tournament. India’s face-off with arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday here will complete a bumper opening weekend.

While the format chalked out by ICC is likely to ensure that all top eight teams Australia, England, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies get to the top-eight phase, this edition of the mega-event will have at least three teams that are on even keel as far as winning the trophy is concerned.

Darren Lehmann’s Australia are entertaining, in-form and on home soil. Quality and form could keep South Africa and New Zealand slightly better-placed as title contenders compared to some of the other top teams like India, who are battling injuries and inconsistent form. It will not be an easy job for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men to retain the Cup that they won at a packed Wankhede Stadium four years ago.

A side still in transition, the Indian team’s composition has undergone a sea change in the last four years with the retirement of the iconic Sachin Tendulkar and the gradual phase-out of last edition’s heroes Yuvraj Singh, the supremely talented Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh. The batting largely depends on Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and skipper Dhoni but it’s the lack of experienced bowlers that may keep the fans worried.

Although India’s limited overs team has done well but their recent performances in Australia will certainly keep them worried as they gear up for their first match against Pakistan in what could be Dhoni’s final ODI World Cup.

Australia will be keen to win a fifth World title having won the first time in the Indian sub-continent in 1987 followed by a hat-trick in 1999 (England), 2003 (South Africa) and 2007 (West Indies). The team has talented players in all department, and the only worry will be skipper Michael Clarke’s hamstring injury, which ruled him out of  the opening match.
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