Nagpur, March 12: It goes without saying that this World Cup, Team India is enjoying 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 imbued 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.
The Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur is the stadium where India will face arch rivals South Africa on Mar 12. The home-side 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). In that encounter, Indian skipper M S Dhoni blazed a 107-ball 124 with 7 fours and 3 sixes to take Indian to a commanding total of 354, before Ravindra Jadeja took 3 wickets and Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma 2 a piece, to bowl out the visitors for 255 in 48.3 overs.
Then just two months later, India went on to lose against Sri Lanka, by 3 wickets with 5 balls to spare. In that match, again Dhoni excelled with a 107 off 111 balls as Indian surged to 301/7 in 50 overs. But the Lankans came back strongly, Tillakaratne Dilshan scoring 123 off 113 balls to take Sri Lanka within sight of victory before the latter order finished off the job.
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. It goes without saying that South Africa's pace battery will feel very much at home on this ground and will probably hold the edge over the Indians. So the Indian batsmen will have to do their darnedest at keeping the Proteas pacemen at bay. Hopefully, given the importance of the match and the gravity of the situation in Group B, India will prevail...