With two days to go until the World Cup begins in Australia and New Zealand there are only two more sides to look at. Those sides are India and Australia, the latter ranked number 1 in the world for ODIs. Enjoy.
India (Group B)
Fixtures: vs Pakistan, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, vs South Africa, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs UAE, WACA, Perth, vs West Indies, WACA, Perth, vs Ireland, Seddon Park, Hamilton, vs Zimbabwe, Eden Park, Auckland.
Squad: MS Dhoni (c/wk), R Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Akshar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
India come into the tournament as one of the best one-day sides in the world. Their batting is very strong, and key players like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane have all experienced batting on Australian wickets during their recent Test series. Kohli and Rahane both played very well in the Tests, and Rohit comes in to the tournament on the back of an innings of 264 against Sri Lanka. In Rohit, Dhawan, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni the Indians have players who can take the game away from the opposition in an instant, and Dhoni now has more time to focus on this format following his retirement from Test matches. In Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, R Ashwin and others the Indians have quite a strong bowling attack.
The number 7 position is a worry, however, as the Indians often enter games with a fairly long tail. Their recent tri-series against Australia and England was less than impressive, the side losing three of their four games (the other being washed out). The Indians will often only pick 5 bowlers for any given match, with Suresh Raina, a fairly harmless off-spinner, to make up the rest. In the test series against Australia their batting was really good, but Shami, Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma all struggled with the ball. They will need to find their form again, and the selection of bowler Dhawal Kulkarni for their pre-World Cup tri-series did not necessarily help. All things considered, the Indians are capable of winning everything, but must find their form fast.
Australia (Group A)
Fixtures: vs England, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs Bangladesh, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs New Zealand, Eden Park, Auckland, vs Afghanistan, WACA, Perth, vs Sri Lanka, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, vs Scotland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
Squad: Michael Clarke (c), George Bailey, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin (wk), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.
Australia will come into their home tournament with plenty of confidence, but there will also be very high expectations that come with it. David Warner and Aaron Finch form a dynamic opening partnership, and Steve Smith is batting confidently and piling on the runs while he’s at it. Glenn Maxwell, Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner are all-rounders who can perform when it matters and Brad Haddin’s glovework is sublime, not to mention his batting. George Bailey has become a mature middle-order batsman, and if Michael Clarke is ruled out with his hamstring injury he will be ready to step in as captain. Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood form a formidable pace attack, and Australia will be tough to beat, especially on home turf.
There are, however, a few question marks. Clarke has been selected as captain but he is injured and he will most likely miss Australia’s first game. If he has to leave the squad it could throw the side into disarray. Shane Watson will most likely play at number three, but his recent form has been poor, and this could lead to a repeat of their recent series against South Africa, where one wicket often quickly turned to two or three. Spin bowling is where they encounter their main issue. While the pace attack is strong Australia have struggled for quality spinners for years, and recently they have just used Maxwell’s off spinners. If he is smashed by opposition batsmen it could lead to difficulties. Despite this, Australia have a very strong chance of success.
Tomorrow: I wrap up my preview with my final predictions for the tournament.