Why a World Cup encore seems like a bridge too far for India

Tags: ICC World Cup 2015, India

Published on: Nov 22, 2014

The 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand is still a little over a couple of months away.

The 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand is still a little over a couple of months away. However, most sides have already began strategising for the mega event, and the war of words has already started as far as the teams are concerned. Unlike most other World Cups over the last two decades, the 2015 edition is likely to be a highly open event. This is because Australia are no longer favourites even though they would be playing at home. Any team can win the event provided they perform to potential over the course of a couple of months. And, this is one of the key reasons why the tournament is expected to be an exciting one.

Although India are the defending champions, they aren't being rated anywhere near as favourites. There are a couple of key reasons behind the same. Firstly, their record in Australia across formats is very poor. They did win the 2007-08 CB tri-series impressively, but that was more like a rarity rather than a norm. If you take that triumph out, they really haven't achieved much glory in the country. They have failed to win one-day contests in Australia in 2000, 2004 and 2012 as well. Of the three series', even in the Tests they were competitive only in the 2004 series, in which Australia missed Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

Secondly, India's itinerary prior to the next year's World Cup is pretty similar to what it was in 1991-92, during which India had a disastrous tour Down Under. They first featured in a gruelling Test series, interspersed with one-dayers followed by the mega event itself. Putting the whole schedule together, India were in Australia for nearly four months. They struggled miserably in the Tests as well as the one-dayers although they had a blend of youth and experience. And, by the time the World Cup actually came around, they seemed like a spent force. They somehow managed to find enough inspiration to overcome arch-rivals Pakistan.

If you compare India's schedule for the current tour, they would be featuring in four gruelling Tests followed by a tri-series for which they will be joined by England. After this, the teams will head over to the World Cup. Although the lengthy series will help India get accustomed to the conditions in Australia, it is also possible that they might get fatigued in the process, as was the case in 1992. It is no surprise that Australia also struggled in spite of being hosts during the 1992 edition. Like India, they too had worn out by the time the big event arrived. The hectic schedule also does not give the players too much time to recover from niggles and injuries.

Another factor that could go against India is that, unlike most other sides, they have many players who play all formats of the sports. Of the current Indian squad which will be battling it out against the Aussies, only Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay can be termed Test specialists. Even from them, Vijay keeps getting selected in ODIs squads. The rest of the senior members like Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (the list goes on...), feature in all three formats. This is where Australia will have an advantage over India although their schedule is equally hectic. And, it is perhaps why their chances of a World Cup encore seem like a bridge too far.

--By A Cricket Analyst

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