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Can India defend the World Cup title down under?

Many of us have even forgotten that the Pakistan match was the first win on the Aussie tour, after a long hard winless drought.

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni will have to play a big role if India are to retain the World Cup

India’s World Cup defence started with a convincing display against arch-rivals Pakistan. The win has raised the expectations of the team from the Indian public.

Many fans have even forgotten that this was the team’s first win in an official match on the Australian tour, after a long hard winless drought. The question to be asked is whether India can go all the way and defend the World Cup.

The first match gave glimpses of India’s batting might to all. Suresh Raina sizzled in his knock of 74 and tore apart the Pakistan bowling attack. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, two guys who failed to impress in the tri-nation tournament held just before, slowly came to life in their innings and played good knocks. Despite a great bowling effort from Pakistan in the last five overs, India managed to reach a total of 300 in the end.

On paper, if we analyse the batting of all teams playing, India are the only ones who can match Australia’s batting might and even exceed it slightly. If Dhoni and co. get going, no bowling line-up in the world can stop the mayhem. For India to have a chance to defend their title, the batting needs to fire on all cylinders and blaze down the opposition ranks.

Bowlers need to be consistent

While batting remains India’s strength, the question mark for them, as always, is the bowling. India’s bowlers had a horrid show in both the Test and ODI series before the tournament. The quicks Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav were wayward and inconsistent while Bhuvneshwar Kumar struggled with fitness. The spinners too failed to make any impact.

However, the pacers looked good in the encounter against Pakistan. Both Yadav and Shami bowled with brisk pace and looked in good rhythm. Even Ashwin looked recharged and bowled good lines without much experimentation. All these are good signs for India going ahead.

Another positive for India’s bowling line-up is the long gaps between matches in the tournament. It will help bowlers to recharge and give their best in all matches. If the bowlers can get their act together, this Indian team will be tough to beat.

Dhoni shouldn’t be conservative

Another thing which needs to be spot on is Dhoni’s captaincy. When the Ranchi-born lad led India to the World T20 title in 2007, he was an aggressive captain and often went for the kill. He has tended to be more conservative in recent times, especially in alien conditions.

In spin-friendly conditions, Dhoni attacks with his spinners and seems very proactive. He must employ the same tactics with his quicks and look to use them as wicket-taking options, rather than focusing entirely on run saving. Both Yadav and Shami possess good pace and if used as wicket-taking options, they can be much more effective.

Right now, nobody sees India amongst the title favourites. However that might change soon as early as the next match against South Africa. If India can improve their bowling further and be good in the field, they might shock South Africa.

Aussie great Ian Chappell, speaking before India’s match against South Africa, has said: "India have the best chance to beat South Africa. If they play like they did against Pakistan, if they can get the same out of captain Dhoni, they can win.”

Don’t count out this team yet, we might be in for a shock here. If Dhoni can get his boys performing at their very best, India might win back the Cup. Just wait and watch the drama as it unfolds.

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