India will begin its defense of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against arch-rivals Pakistan, the International Cricket Council announced on Tuesday.
The tournament will be staged in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March. New Zealand will face 1996 champions Sri Lanka in the tournament's opening game at Christchurch on 14 Ferbruary, while the India-Pakistan match will be played at Adelaide the following day. The final will be played at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on March 29.
The preliminary stages of the competition have the teams divided into two groups. Group A will feature Australia, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Qualifier 2 and Qualifier 3. Group B has South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Qualifier 4. The top four sides from each group will progress to the quarterfinals.
India won the last edition of the tournament in 2011. They defeated Sri Lanka in Mumbai by six wickets in the final, with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni clinching the title with a six. After playing Pakistan in Adelaide, the team will visit the MCG to play South Africa on 22 February. Perth hosts their next two games against Qualifier 4 (28 February) and West Indies (6 March), before they play Ireland in Hamilton (10 March). The final game takes place in Eden Park, Auckland, against Zimbabwe (14 March).
Looking forward to the tournament, Dhoni revealed his excitement at the prospect of successfully defending the trophy.
"It only seems like yesterday that we won the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in front of a passionate and supportive home crowd," Dhoni explained. "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," he continued. "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."