After two big wins showcased their credentials to retain the Cricket World Cup, India start as overwhelming favorites to make continue their perfect record when taking on minnows the United Arab Emirates in Perth. Expectations had been diminished for the 2011 winners after a miserable run of form in Australia ahead of the tournament. But convincing victories over local foes Pakistan, and, especially, South Africa have seen hopes soar and put them in pole position to top Pool B.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men will be aiming to defend that position on Saturday when taking on a UAE team that, in just the country’s second World Cup, has lost both matches so far. Having been on tour in Australia for four months, India have not over-exerted themselves since beating South Africa by 130 runs on Sunday. But opener Shikhar Dhawan, who top-scored with 137 last time out, insists they won’t be taking their next opponents lightly.
“We need to keep the momentum going,” he said, reports the Times of India. “We will approach the match the same way as we have done for other games and play it as we have been playing all along. We will play with the same fighting spirit and keep the same intensity. You can't afford to take any side lightly at the international level.”
Still, India will be without a couple of important figures for the match at the WACA. Mohammed Shaimi, who leads India’s bowlers with six wickets so far, will miss out with a knee problem and could be replaced by all-rounder Stuart Binny. Meanwhile coach Duncan Fletcher has flown back to South Africa to attend the funeral of his father-in-law.
“We will all miss Duncan,” Dhawan added. “But we will still do the same routines at training. I am sure he must have discussed these matters with the support staff.”
While still without a win, the UAE have been far from disgraced thus far in their return to the World Cup after a 19 year absence. Both matches were close run things, a four-wicket loss to Zimbabwe being followed by a nail-biting defeat to Ireland. That latest defeat against a fellow Associate nation has realistically ended the UAE’s always outside hopes of making the quarterfinals, but there is still much they can take from matches against top-level opposition, according to all-rounder Amjad Javed.
“If we are getting good games against the Test-playing nations and good exposure, then definitely the boys will learn from their mistakes,” he said, reports Abu Dhabi publication The National. “In a big tournament like this, suddenly you are playing in front of TV, and you drop a catch, then suddenly the morale goes down. “We need to boost the players and, Inshallah [if Allah willis], next game we will see the energy back.”
Match time: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. local time, 1:30 a.m. EST.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch the match via pay per view. More info here.