Perth, Feb 27: Having demolished Pakistan and South Africa in their first two matches by dishing out clinical performances, defending champions India would look to complete a hat-trick of victories when they take on minnows United Arab Emirates in their third group league match of the ICC World Cup on Saturday.
On the field as well as on paper, UAE stand no chance against the world champions who have simply outplayed Pakistan and South Africa in their 76 and 130 run victories respectively. (Shikhar speaks on the match)
The batting unit has performed admirably well while the bowlers' performance has surpassed everyone's expectation in the first two matches. India though will be without the services of pacer Mohammed Shami due to a knee injury, but that is unlikely to make much difference in their bowling show against the UAE.
With the campaign for 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 would enable them play the fourth-placed team of Group A in the quarterfinals. (Not intimidated by Indian players: UAE captain)
The match against UAE will give them a chance to record 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 stages of the tournament.
While Virat Kohli, with a century and 46, is back in touch, Shikhar Dhawan has been in blazing form with a half-century against Pakistan followed by a brilliant career-best ton against South Africa. Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina have also made their fair share of contribution.
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 managed to play 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.
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. Rohit could only score 15 against Pakistan while he was unfortunately run-out for nought 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.
The same is the case for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose bad patch has become a prolonged one. He would like to get some runs and a bit of form going his way before the West Indies game and he 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.
The logic of retaining the same playing XI, in case it happens, is that this set-up have worked to earn victories against superior opponents and have 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.
Mohit Sharma has been impressive
The revelation for India has been 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 batting department, they have right-handed middle-order batsman Shaiman Anwar, who has had an exceptional start to the tournament, scoring 67 against Zimbabwe followed by a 83-ball-106 against Ireland just the other day.
They also have wicketkeeper-batsman Swapnil Patil, who had once played junior-level cricket against Ajinkya Rahane.
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.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
United Arab Emirates: Mohammed Tauqir (captain), Amjad Ali, Amjad Javed, Andri Berenger, Fahad Alhashmi, Asanka Guruge, Khurram Khan, Kamran Shehzad, Krishna Chandran, Mohammed Naveed, Nasir Aziz, Swapnil Patil, Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Saqlain Haider.
Match starts at 12.00 PM IST