New Delhi: India may have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup but former spinner Venkatapathi Raju feels that being the defending champions the pressure will be on the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team when it faces off against the arch-rivals in their opening game in Adelaide.
"India have done better in the recent past as compared to Pakistan but being the defending champions and the fact that they have not lost a game against their arch-rivals in the ICC World Cup, I believe the pressure will be on us. Pakistan have nothing to lose, we have everything to gain," Raju, who is a development officer in the Asian Cricket Council, told PTI in an interview.
Raju, who was part of the 1992 Indian side when Australia and New Zealand hosted the first coloured World Cup, said that the Men in Blue should kick-start their defence on a winning note on February 15.
"People are so used to seeing India win against Pakistan in a World Cup that the pressure automatically builds on us. But if you have to be a champion team then you have to come good in any situation and start on a winning note to take the momentum forward," he said.
Raju wants India to feature in the top-6 but predicts that sub-continent teams will have a tough time due to new ICC rules like field restrictions and power-plays - a definite new from the time Raju played cricket.
"There is a lot of difference between 1992 and now. Because at that time there were no boundary ropes, the restrictions were only four in the circle. Now there are five fielders inside the the 30-yard circle throughout, the power-plays, all these have come in. The biggest concern is the drop-in wickets and we don't know how they are going to behave," he said.
"India should feature in the final-four but I can't predict the top four, maybe top-six I can count. Teams like Australia and South Africa look like the two best sides because of their bowling and batting.
"New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, are the ones who are also looking like featuring in the top-six, but sub-continent teams will really have to play good cricket to compete with the rest," he added.
The Indian bowlers have struggled on Australian pitches so far and Raju said that the team will not only have to iron out their bowling worries but also rely heavily on their batsmen.
"We have to depend on our batting because batting has always been our strength. So our bowling looks inexperienced as Jadeja (Ravindra) and Akshar (Patel) are relatively new and are similar type of bowlers. Ravichandran Ashwin has to come good because he is the senior-most of the lot. Ishant I am afraid is not able to do much because you need bowlers who can stop runs in the power-plays," Raju said.
"There is a bit of gap between the tri-series and the World Cup and that could go either way for the bowlers. They can either get their rhythm back or totally lose it. Injuries is also a cause of concern because the bowlers need to be match fit. The bowlers have to be attacking due to the latest ICC rules of field restrictions," he added.
The picture of an excited Raju after getting Pakistan skipper Imran Khan run out for a duck in the 1992 World Cup match that India won is still fresh in fans' memories and the left-arm spinner believes that for a bowler line and length will be key in Australia.
"You cannot call somebody to fill in the gap if anybody is getting hit. Even these if you see the so called part-timers, they pick wickets. That happened to us when Yuvraj Singh played in the last World Cup and he picked up a lot of wickets with his left-arm spin. The length and the variation of pace will be very very important whether you are a pacer or spinner," he said.
India have not only lost the Test series against Australia but also fared badly in the tri-series involving the hosts and England, a trend similar to that in 1992. But Raju believes that the then tour was longer than this time around and India can still play good cricket from here.
"In 1992 we had a very long tour. We played five Test matches and then the tri-series. The tri-series then was very long and we also played quite a few four-day practice games before the World Cup. This time at-least they have time so they have to maintain their fitness level and play their best cricket," he concluded.