It goes without saying that this World Cup, Team India will enjoy the luxury of home advantage, with riotous crowds egging them on, with pulsating cheers meeting every run the batsman take and every wicket the bowlers ensnare, and an atmosphere embued in palpable national pride.
But the stadiums at which each of India's scheduled encounters in the global event will unfold at, hold a certain significance. No, they are more than just the proverbial lucky charm. They carry a history which largely favours the Indian side.
Indeed, India has won more matches than it has lost in 3 out of the 5 grounds they will be playing at in the World Cup 2011. And in the other two, they have recorded as many victories as defeats. Such a statistic only augments India's home "advantage", rendering it an aura of near invincibility. So, now let's take a look at India's track record at each of these grounds.
The Shere Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur is the venue to the inauggural World Cup match, which will take place on Feb 19 between India and Bangaldesh. India has a 100% win record at this ground, beating Bangladesh in all the 5 matches the two sides have played here. The last of India's encounters at this location also culminated in victory when India beat the hosts convincingly - by 6 wickets with 42 balls to spare. But this is quite a fortuitous stadium for the Bangladeshi team as they have won 18 matches, while losing exactly the same number.
They are also capable of springing a few surprises at this venue as the New Zealand team will attest to. The Kiwis have been consigned to four defeats by the Bangladeshis here, thrice in Oct last year (by the unusually close margins of 9 runs, 9 runs and 3 runs) and once in Oct 2008, when the hosts romped home by 7 wickets with 27 balls to spare.
India's second and third World Cup 2011 ties will be played at Bangalore's M Chinnaswamy Stadium with the slated opponents being England (Feb 27) and Ireland (Mar 6). This turns out to be India's most successful of battlegrounds for the home side has won as many as 11 of its 16 encounters with 1 no result here. It's last match also ended in victory as they defeated New Zealand by 5 wickets in a dramatic Dec 7, 2010 engagement in which Yusuf Pathan hit an unbeaten 123 off 98 balls.
Against England, India has played three matches at Chinnaswamy, winning 1 and losing 2. But while the victory came on Nov 23, 2008 (by a comfortable 19 runs), the defeats occured as far back as 1993 and 1985, when India lost by 48 runs and 3 wickets respectively.
India's most emphatic win at Chinnaswamy came on May 14, 1997, when it beat New Zealand by 8 wickets with 45 balls left. And India's biggest loss recorded here was on Apr 4, 1999 when Pakistan trounced the home side by 123 runs with allrounder Azhar Mahmood taking 5/38. India has also played a 1996 World Cup encounter here, beating Pakistan by 39 runs in the quarter final of the event.
India's next match on its World Cup 2011 itinerary will be against the Netherlands at Delhi's Ferozshah Kotla. The ground which was blacklisted by the ICC for nearly a year due to an allegedley unplayable strip, has witnessed 8 Indian victories and 5 losses with 1 no result.
India's last match at this venue culminated in victory for the home team with India beating Australia by 6 wickets with 10 balls to spare in a match especially remembered for a magnificent 148 stand between Yuvraj Singh (78) and M S Dhoni (71*). India's biggest wins at this ground have both come against New Zealand - in Nov 1999 when the home side beat the Kiwis by 7 wickets with 36 balls to spare and in Nov 1994, when the Black Caps lost by 107 runs. On the other hand, India were annihilated by Pakistan at the Kotla by 159 runs on Apr 17, 2005, it's largest defeat margin here.
The Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur is the next stadium which India travels to in their World Cup campaign - to face arch rivals South Africa on Mar 9. India has a 50-50 chance of effecting a win here, going by its record of just two matches at this ground. It won against Australia here on Oct 28, 2009 by a mammoth 99 runs (one of India's most crushing defeats against the Aussies) and then went on to lose against Sri Lanka two months later, by 3 wickets with 5 balls to spare. Perhaps, India can beat the odds at Nagpur, though their bowlers will have to do a bang-up job at exploiting the bounce on offer here.
India will play its final group-stage match of the World Cup 2011, which will be against the West Indies, at the M A Chidambaram Stadium. More commonly known as Chepauk, this ground has seen India win three ODIs and lose three ODIs. India's biggest win occured in its last match at this ground when the home boys whipped the Kiwis by 8 wickets with 173 balls to spare, on Dec 10, 2010. And India's worst defeat at Chepauk was probably a 3-wicket-with-38-balls-remaining loss to the West Indies on Jan 27, 2007.
So all in all, India possess a favourable itinerary this World Cup, provided they keep a cool head and wrest the initiative from their opponents. India should definitely take comfort in the fact that history is on their side at most of the venues they will be featuring at in this World Cup, but that should not be cause for over-confidence. The grounds await a historic turn from India. Can the home team deliver?