Dubai: Confident about defending the World Cup, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the upcoming tour of Australia would be a great opportunity for his already well-prepared side to hone its skills further ahead of the mega-event to be played Down Under next year.
India will launch their title defence against traditional rivals Pakistan in Adelaide on February 15 and Dhoni said his side was capable of adapting and performing in any condition.
MS Dhoni. Pic/ AFP
"Following the World Cup triumph in 2011, the India side won the 50-over ICC Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom. This reflects the calibre and talent of the side, and its ability to adapt and perform in any condition," Dhoni was quoted as saying in an ICC release.
"The tour to Australia in the lead up to the World Cup will be a good opportunity to hone our skills and, like all the sides participating in the tournament, be fully prepared for cricket's ultimate prize," said the 33-year-old, sixth-ranked batsman in the world.
"The World Cup is the biggest prize in cricket and to defend the title in Australia and New Zealand next year is a special opportunity. Like all the players, as well as millions of die-hard India cricket supporters around the globe, I look forward to the tournament with anticipation and excitement," added the wicketkeeper.
India will begin their tour of Australia next month. Other national captains also joined the 100 days to go to the World Cup celebrations by sharing their excitement and talking about their targets for the tournament that will be participated in by 14 sides, and will begin in Christchurch and Melbourne on February 14.
Australia captain Michael Clarke, who won the tournament in the West Indies in 2007, said it was a unique opportunity to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup in front of home crowds. "The last time the ICC Cricket World Cup was played in Australia was 23 years ago, so to be able to play in one at home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said the 33-year-old veteran of 237 One-Day Internationals. "It is incredibly exciting for Australia to be co-host with New Zealand for the tournament and I encourage fans in both countries to come out watch the world's best battle it out."
Clarke anticipated an electrifying atmosphere at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Australia opens their campaign against England, which had reached the final when the event was last staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. "When we walk out onto the MCG for our first match against England, I know the atmosphere will be electric. It's fantastic to be able to host a global tournament of this magnitude in our own backyard and we can't wait for it to start."
Clarke's opposite number Alastair Cook, who will be featuring in his maiden World Cup, said his side will be aiming to do better than the England side of 1992. "Every professional cricketer dreams of representing his country in the ICC Cricket World Cup and I am no exception. I am hugely thrilled to have been given the chance to lead England in the tournament and I expect that competition for places in our final squad will be extremely tough.
"England reached the final the last time the competition was staged in Australia and New Zealand so there's a real incentive for us to go one better next time and win the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time in our history," said the 29-year-old, who has featured in 86 ODIs to date for England.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who was part of the side that lost the semi-final to India in Mohali in 2011, said every match in the ICC Cricket World Cup will be important. "The tournament opener against India in Adelaide (on 15 February) will be an important match but every game in the World Cup will matter as each side will enter into the competition believing that it can lift the coveted trophy. We will take one match at a time, try to stick to our game plans, aim to do the basics right and then hope for the best," said Misbah.
The veteran of 151 ODIs hopes that the World Cup 1992 victory will guide his side through to next year's event. "Pakistan has unforgettable memories from the event when it was last staged in Australia and New Zealand. Though you don't require any extra motivation when representing your country, the 1992 World Cup will help us at every stage during next year's tournament."