After back-to-back impressive wins to start the 2015 Cricket World Cup, India may take the chance to rotate their lineup when taking on the United Arab Emirates on Saturday. Having beaten local rivals Pakistan in their opening match, India caused a major stir by defeating one of the tournament’s leading favorites South Africa by 130 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Those results already leave Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team in pole position to top Pool B, meaning they could give some of their squad members yet to take to the field a chance against minnows UAE.
It is a far healthier position then may anticipated them being in just a couple of weeks ago. India have been in Australia since last year adapting to the conditions, yet results had been a huge disappointment. Before beating Afghanistan on the eve of the competition, India had lost all four one-day international matches against Australia and England. In addition, India were heading into their first World Cup since 1987 without Sachin Tendulkar, and with the man regarded as his heir-apparent, Virat Kohli, struggling for form with the bat. But things quickly turned around. Kohli struck a century against Pakistan, and then, helped by opener Shikhar Dhawan’s own return to form as well as bowling that has exceeded expectations, India defied a 3-0 losing record to South Africa in World Cups.
The performance against South Africa in particular has raised expectations that India could now pose a real threat to retain the trophy they won on home soil in 2011. West Indies legend Brian Lara is one of those to have been impressed with what he has seen and believes they are now on course to win their group.
“Most definitely,” he told NDTV, according to the Times Of India. “India is playing great cricket. The combination of their efforts on the field, with the bat and the ball. Somewhere down the line you find an Indian team suffering in one discipline of the game but right now their batting is great, their bowlers are doing what is necessary to win the games and the Indian fielding over the last few years has also improved, they are now on a different level. “They playing very good cricket under the leadership of captain Dhoni. Their all-round game is what is impressive and that's what they need to keep doing to win the World Cup.”
Certainly few would expect the UAE to throw a spanner into the works when the sides meet at the WACA in Perth. Playing in just their second World Cup, and first since 1996, the UAE began by taking some credit from a narrow defeat to Zimbabwe, but realistically need to get a victory against Ireland on Wednesday to keep their hopes alive by the time they meet India.
For the UAE it was always going to be a long shot to make the quarterfinals, but the major objective may well be to show, along with the other Associate nations, that the International Cricket Council is making a major mistake in downsizing the World Cup in four years’ time from 15 to 10 teams. And UAE coach Aaqib Javed has become the latest critic of the ICC’s decision.
“I think the gap is narrowing now and every Associate is pushing the Full members,” Aaqib said, according to Abu Dhabi publication The National. “I am really surprised by the decision the ICC already made that the next World Cup would be 10 teams.
“Which 10 teams? If you look at the performances from some teams, their graph has been going down, like West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. I am not just talking about in this World Cup. Overall, what have they achieved in the past 10 years? Why can’t there be pressure on them to improve, or go down?”
A victory against India, or even providing them with a real scare, would do much to prove his point.
Match time: Saturday 2:30 p.m., local time, 1:30 a.m. EST.
Prediction: Even if they chance some members of their lineup, India should emerge with a straight forward win.