India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said his side is shaping up nicely and is on course to become the third country after Australia and the West Indies to win back-to-back ICC Cricket World Cups.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni believes India can win the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Photo by: Ron Gaunt - BCCI - SPORTZPICS

Dhoni, who hit the winning runs in Mumbai when India won the title in front of a full-house in 2011, added that his side had players who were capable of handling the pressure of a global event, and that victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in the UK in 2013 proved that India has the firepower and ability to excel outside its own territory.

“It is amazing to think that it is just one year until we defend our ICC Cricket World Cup title as that means it is almost three years since we won the trophy on that amazing night in Mumbai. The memories of that night and of the whole tournament are as fresh and as special as ever,” said Dhoni, as cricket on Friday celebrates one year to go to the start of ICC’s flagship event – the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

The tournament will be staged in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March, with India to open its title defence against traditional rival and 1992 champion Pakistan in Adelaide on 15 February.

“We know that defending the ICC Cricket World Cup is something that only the West Indies and Australia have done over the whole history of the tournament but with the quality we have in and around our squad we believe we can become the third side to do it.

“We have a group of players who are experienced at playing in high-pressure situations and we have already shown we are capable of dealing with the dual pressures of being world champions and coping in overseas conditions at a major ICC event by winning the ICC Champions Trophy in the UK last year,” Dhoni added.

While India won its first title in 1983 under Kapil Dev, Clive Lloyd led the West Indies to titles in 1975 and 1979, and Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003 and 2007) were at the helm when Australia won the tournament in England, South Africa and the West Indies.

Dhoni, who occupies sixth position in the Reliance ICC Player Rankings for ODI Batsmen, said the New Zealand tour has allowed his side to experience the conditions it will face during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, which, in turn, has helped his side to prepare for next year’s tournament.

“Although we did not win our latest ODI series in New Zealand, it has given us valuable experience of what we can expect in 12 months’ time.

“The next year is now all about getting our plans in place and remaining confident, and, if we can do that, then we will be in a good place by the time the action starts next February. I remember the joy that us winning the ICC Cricket World Cup brought to all Indians all over the world in 2011 and we want to do the same again by playing to the best of our ability in 2015,” said Dhoni.

Australia captain Michael Clarke, who was just 11 years old when Australia last hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1992, said he was thrilled that the event was returning to his country.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup is the pinnacle of one-day cricket and we’re thrilled that it’s going to be held in our own backyard,” said Clarke, whose side will lock horns with England on the opening day of the tournament in Melbourne.

“The best players in the world will be coming to Australia and New Zealand and we’re looking forward to playing good entertaining cricket. I encourage as many Australians and New Zealanders as possible to get behind this amazing event,” Clarke added.

Brendon McCullum, whose men will go head to head with Sri Lanka in the tournament opener in Christchurch, hoped his country will get behind it as New Zealand eyes its maiden World Cup title.

“We’re travelling well at the moment with a number of young guys having stepped up against the West Indies and India.

“The team has had tremendous support over the summer, so we’re keen to continue our current form into the World Cup and get the whole country behind us,” said McCullum.

Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who side squares off against Afghanistan in Canberra on 18 February, said the top ODI sides were evenly matched and it will be difficult to pick a clear winner for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

“The pitches and conditions will be a lot different. For the players who are not accustomed to playing there, it will be a big challenge. As I have said before, the teams are more evenly matched and you cannot pick out an outright favourite. That is unique about this World Cup.

“I believe the CWC 2015 will be an excellent competition on and off the field. The ODI nations are closer than ever in terms of strength and that promises some great cricket,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman.

“The key would be to get into a good rhythm going into the World Cup. We have plenty of cricket ahead of the competition and it is important to continue the improvement achieved over the last two to three years.

“We have a reputation to uphold also. The Bangladesh team has earned the respect in one day cricket through some consistent performances and we have to carry on the good work.

Our focus is on a team game where there is contribution, no matter how big or small, from every player,” Mushfiqur concluded.

About ICC CWC 2015
The 11th edition of the tournament will be played in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March and will include ICC’s 10 Full Members as well as Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which qualified through the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship and the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2014.

The 14 sides have been equally divided into two pools, which are:
Pool A    Pool B
England    South Africa
Australia    India
Sri Lanka    Pakistan
Bangladesh    West Indies
New Zealand    Zimbabwe
Afghanistan    Ireland
Scotland    UAE

The top four sides from each pool will progress to the quarter-finals, followed by the two semi-finals and the final. All the knock-out matches will have reserve days.

A total of 49 matches will be played in the 44-day tournament across 14 venues in the two countries. Australia will stage 26 matches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, whilst the 23 matches in New Zealand will be held in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson and Wellington.