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Pakistan not a big threat to India in opening tie, says Azharuddin

Having led India to three World Cup victories against Pakistan, former captain Mohammad Azharuddin feels that the defending champions face no serious threat from their arch-rivals in the much-hyped encounter between the two sides in the cricket World Cup.

“India-Pakistan is always a big game. We have not lost to Pakistan in the World Cup and that will play on everyone’s minds while going into the match. I believe that India have a good side and if they play well, I don’t think that Pakistan will pose such a big threat,” said Azharuddin.

Azhar though realises that the battle will not be easy after the Pakistan game on February 15 in Adelaide and India, who have not fared well in Australia so far, will then need to be more consistent in order to retain the title.

“It’s not very easy to make their way into the final-four. They will have to play well consistently. I think they need to win more matches so that the confidence levels are high. If they start losing matches, it becomes very difficult to make a comeback,” the Hyderabadi stylist said.

“They have the side, they have the talent but eventually it boils down to how fit the team is and how well they adapt to different situations during the ODI games,” Azhar added.

Having lost the Test series against the hosts and not being able to reach the tri-series final, the Indian cricket fortunes are resembling the 1992 Australian summer when Azhar and company failed to make the semi-finals after a dismal performance Down Under. But Azhar opines that once the board agrees to a tour, there should be no excuses.

“Look the board has accepted the itinerary and the calendar, so we should not complain. We were prepared and knew that we would play Test matches and then the tri-series before heading into the World Cup. The board agreed to it and the players knew exactly what they were doing and accordingly they should have managed their fitness.

“The fear of injury is always there because it’s a tough game but at the same time we have to take care of it, because we knew the itinerary. So you can’t make these excuses,” he said.

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