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ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, India vs Pakistan: Preview

Adelaide: Plagued by injuries and inconsistent performances, a jittery India will begin their title defence, taking inspiration from history when they lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in what promises to be a high voltage opening round clash of the ICC Cricket World Cup, here tomorrow.

India have an overwhelming 5-0 record in the 50-over World Cup since the two teams were first pitted against each other at the ICC event in the 1992 edition in Sydney.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys would like to retain their supremacy on a 'Super Sunday'.

It's a match that ICC expects to be a full-house affair, considering that close to 20,000 Indians have already descended in Adelaide, especially for this match.

It's a match which both teams as usual would be desperate to win in order to start the mega event on the right note.

A defeat at the onset and that too against Pakistan is something Dhoni can ill-afford after his team's shoddy performance throughout the Australian summer.

Inconsistencies and lack of runs from his deputy and batting mainstay Virat Kohli, a bowling attack that couldn't even get 10 Afghanistan wickets in a practice match and fitness issues of some key players would certainly be reasons for worry as far as Dhoni is concerned.

While Dhoni's calm exterior would give away very little about what he feels, a Pakistan match has always brought the best out of India even when they have been in the dumps. For the record, the 1992 edition in Australia, the 1999 edition England were two occasions when Indians played poor cricket for the better part but found their mojo against the arch-rivals, defeating them convincingly.

Therefore, an India team battered and bruised by the Aussies is not a parameter to judge how they would fare against Pakistan in a World Cup match.

Whether it's Sachin Tendulkar, Ajay Jadeja or a Venkatesh Prasad, India have somehow always found that one individual, who has risen to the occasions despite the chips being down.

A Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane or even skipper Dhoni himself is capable of changing the complexion of a match in individual capacity.

Dhoni himself has never been a great believer of statistics but a 5-0 record in World Cup can only infuse positive energy in a team that looks jaded and out of ideas.

The fact that they are facing Pakistan, who are also not in great shape will give India a slight edge over Misbah-ul-Haq's men.

Losing a capable batsman like Mohammed Hafeez and a potent swing bowler in Junaid Khan to respective injuries and Saeed Ajmal because of lack of time, Pakistan also do not start on an ideal note.

Their last ODI series against New Zealand also did not yield desired results with the team losing 0-2 to the hosts.

But Pakistan, a team always rich in quality, have the capacity to stop the Indians. For them one positive aspect has been their performance in the warm-up games in the run-up to the marquee event.

While India were convincingly thrashed by Australia in one of the two warm-ups, Pakistan won both their matches against Bangladesh and England. The win against England must have given them confidence with skipper Misbah showing the way with a 91.

Having lost all five matches in the World Cup in the past, Pakistan would indeed be under more pressure than India, as the onus is on them to change the team's fortunes.

Ajinkya Rahane has been a steady accumulator of runs, while Rohit's 150 against Afghanistan were testimony that they are fit and hungry to make the maiden World Cup appearances count.

But problem has been Kohli's indifferent form in the ODI tri-series followed by poor shot selection in the practice match. His form is key to India's fortunes and Dhoni can't afford his best batsman to bite the dust in testing times.

The biggest worry for India will be their bowling, which has been poor to say the least over the last two and half months.

Ishant Sharma's injury woes, Bhuvneshwar Kumar's ankle injury leading to a subsequent loss of form meant that India are more dependant on Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav.

Although they are quick but both lack the discipline required at this level to do well.

Stuart Binny has given his all in limited chances he has got but his ability to win matches against big teams is still an unchartered territory.

Among the spinners, both Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel have the same skill set, although Jadeja looks better equipped as far as batting is concerned.

For Pakistan, the veterans Misbah, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi will be the key players along with talented Umar Akmal and the in-form Sohaib Maqsood.

Their pace attack led by left-arm seam duo of Wahab Riaz and 7 feet tall Mohammed Irfan can prove to be a handful on a given day. Riaz in particular would like to get another five-for like 2011 semi-final in Mohali. Only he would want the result to change, even if there's a one less in the wickets column for him.

Squads:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami.

Pakistan: Misbah ul Haq (captain), Shahid Afridi, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood, Ehsan Adil, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Mohammed Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Rahat Ali.

Match starts at 9:00 am IST.

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