Having demolished Pakistan and South Africa in their first two matches with clinical performances, defending champions India will attempt a hat-trick of victories when they take on minnows United Arab Emirates in their third group league match of the World Cup in Perth on Saturday.
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On the field as well as on paper, the UAE stands no chance against the World champions, who simply outplayed Pakistan and South Africa, winning by 76 and 130 runs respectively.
The batting unit performed admirably while the bowlers' performance surpassed everyone's expectations in the first two matches.
India, though, will be without the services of pacer Mohammed Shami, who is ruled out of the match following a knee injury. However, his absence is unlikely to make much of a difference.
Title defence firmly on track
With their campaign for the title defence firmly on track, it will be consolidation time against the UAE as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men are focused on getting the top spot in Group B, which will enable them play the fourth-placed team of Group A in the quarter-finals.
India paceman Shami out of UAE match; Binny may replace him
The match against the UAE will give them a chance to register another big win and enhance the net run-rate in case they face a hiccup against the West Indies or Ireland in the later group matches.
While Virat Kohli, with a century and 46, is back in touch, Shikhar Dhawan is in blazing form with a half-century against Pakistan and a brilliant career-best ton against South Africa.
Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina have also made a fair contribution to India's cause in the tournament.
With four of the top six batsmen in form, it could be ominous signs for an extremely inexperienced UAE bowling attack, whose collective experience is less than 30 matches.
UAE skipper Mohammed Tauqir, at 43 years 43 days, is the second oldest cricketer in the tournament but has played only seven ODIs, having made his debut in 2004 against India in an Asia Cup match at Dambulla.
Ironically, their oldest cricketer is former captain Khurram Khan at 43 years and 250 days.
The three pacers, left-armer Asanka Guruge and right-arm medium fast bowlers Mohammed Naveed and Amjad Javed, have played less than 10 ODIs and can prove to be a cannon fodder for the likes of Dhawan, Kohli and Rahane.
In the batting department, they have right-handed middle-order batsman Shaiman Anwar, who had an exceptional start to the tournament, scoring 67 against Zimbabwe, followed by an 83-ball-106 against Ireland just the other day.
They also have India-born wicketkeeper-batsman Swapnil Patil, who once played junior-level cricket against Ajinkya Rahane.
Rohit Sharma’s chance to get back to form
A match against UAE will give the Indian players a chance to boost their respective averages. It will also give opener Rohit Sharma a chance to get back to form after an indifferent start to the tournament. He could only score 15 against Pakistan while he was unfortunately run-out for naught against South Africa.
Rohit, who holds the world record of highest individual score in ODIs, will like to make amends for the low scores and push for a real big one against a UAE bowling attack that has failed to defend scores of 285 and 278 against comparatively weaker teams like Zimbabwe and Ireland.
Before the knock-out stage comes calling, Rohit would love to get a big one under his belt.
Same is the case for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose bad patch only extended. He would like to get some runs and a bit of form going his way before the West Indies game and will not get a better chance to do that than against an opposition like the UAE.
While there are theories about testing the bench strength against minnows, Dhoni is unlikely to tinker with his winning combination in a big-ticket event, except that either Stuart Binny or Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have to replace Shami.
This set-up have worked to earn victories
The logic of retaining the same playing eleven, in case it happens, is that this set-up has worked to earn victories against superior opponents and earned every right to play against a weaker side also, which will give them a chance to go all guns blazing.
Among the pacers, Umesh Yadav (two wickets in two games) has been slightly erratic despite working up lively pace while Shami (six wickets from two matches), who will not play on Saturday, has got important wickets at various junctures.
The revelation for India is Mohit Sharma (four wickets in two matches), third pacer of the side.
Call it Ishant Sharma's untimely injury or Bhuvneshwar Kumar's questionable fitness, fate played a big part in Mohit's induction and he has grabbed the chance that came his way with both hands.
Spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have also done well, making life a little easier for skipper Dhoni.
For the UAE, the positive has been scoring in excess of 275 in both their earlier matches while the negative point is the inability of their bowlers to defend the scores.
In short, it is going to be a contest between unequals and the UAE will really need to do something extra-special to pull off a miracle.
Match Starts: 1200 IST
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