India succumbed to a third successive defeat as they surrendered the five-match ODI series to Australia with a 35-run loss in the deciding game at Delhi.
It was a disappointing finish to the series for the 'Men in Blue', given that they were 2-0 up in the series and looked all set to clinch the series at Ranchi. A resilient Australian team however, bounced back in style with three successive victories, including a record chase at Mohali where they scaled down the imposing 359-run target.
In what was the Indian team's final ODI tournament before the World Cup, which takes place later this year in England and Wales, the 'Men in Blue' went about making a number of experiments in their lineup to fine-tune their preparations for the big event.
Although they may not have had all their questions answered during the course of the five games, given there are still a couple of areas of concern that persist, the team management would perhaps believe they have most of their squad ready to regain the most coveted prize in cricket.
India's defeat to Australia in the recently-concluded series marks another occasion in which the team lost the ODI series preceding a World Cup, which has been the case three out of four times since the turn of the millennium.
Here, we take a look at India's performance in the final ODI tournament preceding each of the past four World Cups:
2003 World Cup:
The team led by Sourav Ganguly had been enjoying a relatively successful run in the build up to the first World Cup hosted at South Africa. Having won the NatWest Trophy in the summer of 2002, while finishing joint winners in the Champions Trophy alongside hosts Sri Lanka later that year. However, their tour of New Zealand, their last before the World Cup, turned out to be quite the bumpy affair. Facing an incisive Black Caps attack led by former cop Shane Bond, the team were no match for the home side as they lost the series 5-2 — in which they lost the first four games in a row.
World Cup result: India went on to reach the final for the first time since 1983, the team won eight games in a row, before being outplayed by Ricky Ponting's Australia in the final by 125 runs.
2007 World Cup:
The only instance in this millennium in which Team India won the ODI series preceding a World Cup. After their tour of South Africa, in which they were blanked 0-4 by the Proteas before losing the Test series 1-2, India hosted West Indies and Sri Lanka in back-to-back one-day bilateral series', winning both. The first game of the four-ODI series against Sri Lanka ended in a no-result, before the visitors went 1-0 up with a narrow win at Rajkot. India however, bounced back, winning by five and seven wickets respectively to bag the series 2-1.
World Cup result: The Indian team may have entered the World Cup in West Indies on the back of victories on home soil, but all the momentum gained from those wins proved to be of little use, as the Rahul Dravid-led side were beaten by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the group stage to crash out of the tournament in the first round — the first such instance since the 1992 edition.
2011 World Cup:
India's fairytale victory in the 2011 World Cup on home soil was preceded by a gruelling tour of South Africa. The MS Dhoni-led visitors fought hard against Graeme Smith's Proteas, tying the Test series 1-1 with yet another victory at the Wanderers, before falling narrowly short in the one-day series. After losing the opening game, India pulled one back with a one-run win at Johannesburg. The series kept see-sawing between the two sides, with the series level 2-2 going into the final match — which the Proteas won by 33 runs in a rain-affected game.
World Cup result: India's journey in the 2011 World Cup remains among the favourite cricketing tales of an Indian fan, as the 'Men in Blue' lifted the trophy for the first time since 1983. Yuvraj Singh won the 'Player of the Tournament' for an outstanding run with the bat, while Sachin Tendulkar finally got to be part of a victorious squad in his sixth appearance in the mega event.
2015 World Cup:
Defending champions India entered the tournament as one of the favourites alongside co-hosts Australia, and went unbeaten in the tournament until they ran into the Aussies in the semi-final at Sydney. The Indian team however, got enough time to acclimatise themselves to the conditions Down Under with a marathon tour of Australia that spanned four Tests as well as a triangular series featuring England as the third team. After losing the Test leg of the tour 0-2, India looked woefully patchy in the ODI tri-series, losing three out of the four games that they played, the remaining one ending in a no-result.
World Cup result: The defending champions fell short of the ultimate glory, losing the semi-final to Australia by 95 runs at the SCG. The Indian team, though, were noted for their decisive performances in the group stage as well as in the quarter-final against Bangladesh, in which they were able to collect 10 wickets against each opposition, a sign of a transformed attack.
So does the 2-3 loss to Australia in the final ODI series before the World Cup augur poorly for India? According to history, not necessarily.
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