Placed in the relatively easy Group B, India, who won the 2011 event after defeating Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai, will start their title defence on February 15. Incidentally, India have never lost to Pakistan in any of their five World Cup clashes so far.
The Indians will complete their group fixtures against Zimbabwe at Eden Park, Auckland (on March 14). India will also play South Africa (in Melbourne on February 22), Qualifier 4 (in Perth on February 28), West Indies (in Perth on March 6) and Ireland (in Hamilton on March 10). "It only seems like yesterday that we won the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in front of a passionate and supportive home crowd," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who guided the team to the 2011 triumph. "World Cup is a very special event for every cricketer because it only takes place every four years.
Having tasted success in Mumbai in 2011, we'll be working very hard to retain it. "I'm keenly looking forward to the tournament and confident that we'll do well. Our recent victory in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 has provided the team with a lot of confidence, and I am sure this experience will help us in our preparations for the World Cup in 2015," he added. The tournament will open on February 14 with co-hosts Australia and New Zealand playing their first matches in front of their home crowds. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will host the final on March 29. New Zealand will square off against 1996 champions Sri Lanka in the tournament opener in Christchurch and later on the same day, under the MCG floodlights, four-time former champions Australia will go head-to-head with arch-rivals England.
New Zealand will also host Australia when the two neighbouring countries lock horns in Auckland on March 28. 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, the ICC said in a statement. The 14 sides (10 Full Members and four qualifiers), as per their rankings on the ICC ODI Rankings table on December 31, 2012, have been divided into two pools. 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. The fixtures were announced simultaneously in Melbourne and Wellington today. ICC President Alan Isaac, who attended the event launch in Wellington, said: "I'm delighted to be part of this historic occasion as today we officially start the countdown to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, an event that, over the past 40 years, has become a truly global event. "ICC events have established a unique place in the cricket calendar, and, as we've seen at our most recent events in Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, players, sponsors, media, fans and supporters from all around the world want to be part of the spectacle. "Sport is synonymous with life in Australia and New Zealand, and both countries boast some of the best facilities in the world. With the World Cup returning to these shores for the first time since 1992, I am sure it will be an event to remember."
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson, who attended the event launch here, said: "The ICC Cricket World Cup is the flagship tournament of the 50-over game. The 2015 tournament will mark 40 years since the first World Cup in 1975 and that history of great contests and heroes helps make the tournament what it is the most sought after prize in our increasingly global game. "The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be returning to Australia and New Zealand after 23 years and will be staged at the back of two outstanding 50-over ICC events the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and ICC Champions Trophy 2013. John Harnden, Chief Executive of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Local Organising Committee, said ticket prices would be announced later in the year and promised to keep the prices affordable.
"This tournament is about the best teams, the best players and their endurance and skills that will see only the best left standing. We want as many fans as possible to be a part of this rare event," Harnden said. "Australia and New Zealand have diverse communities who are passionate about their heritage and very passionate about cricket. We'll be working hard in local communities to ensure they can follow their teams, attend matches and play a part in the event in 2015."