After three months of hard slog, India finally managed to taste victory on Australian soil, albeit in warm-up game, and that too against a minnow side like Afghanistan. The latter themselves have registered a couple of victories Down Under though they came against club sides. A victory in a practice game against Afghanistan should not give India a lot to cheer about. But, in wake of the fact that they have been devoid of the taste of victory for well over two months, the result will be a definite relieving factor for MS Dhoni and his men. Their next big task is now to prepare for the big clash against Pakistan, everything else can wait.
From the kind of performances India have dished out in both the Tests and one-dayers in Australia, one thing is clear. They can only will the World Cup if their batsmen come up with standout performances in each and every game. India just do not possesses the bowling to threaten opposition batsmen. Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav have been on the international scene for more than a couple of years now. But, they haven't shown the kind of progress expected of them. In the warm-up against Australia, they were completely murdered, and Afghanistan also gave them a scare briefly.
India's most experienced pacer Ishant Sharma has been ruled out of the event. To be honest though, his presence wouldn't have made much of a difference since he himself struggled in the matches that he featured in. India have replaced Ishant with Mohit Sharma, but he too cannot be expected to work wonders since he doesn't have the pace to trouble batsmen. In fact, both Mohit Sharma and Stuart Binny are likely to be more effective in New Zealand conditions. Unfortunately, India will not be playing a lot of games there. They would really miss someone like a Zaheer Khan, who is sadly past his prime.
Spin isn't expected to play a big role in this year's World Cup. Still, India would have wanted an experienced performer like Harbhajan Singh to be around. But, just like Khan, he hasn't been in the reckoning for a while. In fact, he hasn't played ODIs since 2011, the year India claimed the World Cup. India will thus have to be content with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Both of them have done exceedingly well in helpful conditions, but haven't made much of an impact in Australia. Axar Patel has also been chosen though he has a similar role to Jadeja. He has performed better that Jadeja with the ball, but his batting is a worry.
Under the present circumstances, not many would bet on India defending the World Cup trophy. In fact, there is only one way they can win. If their batsmen go all out, and come up with fiery performances game after game. There is a problem here too as Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu haven't been among the runs in the tri-series. Rohit Sharma blasted a 150 against Afghanistan, but his fitness is fragile, which is worry. Among the all-rounders, they would be dependent of Binny to provide the final flourishes. On paper, it seems a possibility, but reality might be a bit harsh.
--By A Cricket Analyst