By Karthik Parimal
Michael Hussey couldn’t have put it more aptly when he said that his side’s clash against India would be deemed as a mini grand final considering the formidable line-ups and the pressure involved. Australia has looked one of the most convincing teams in the World Cup thus far, and their Indian counterparts aren’t far behind either. This Super Eight group involving India, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan has been termed as ‘Group of Death’ for obvious reasons, and to draw first blood would provide huge impetus as the tournament progresses.
India’s ruthless performance against England would have done their confidence a world of good. To dismiss the defending champions to a paltry total of 80, despite fielding a second-strength bowling attack, is a huge morale booster. Moreover, the fact that the Indians haven’t lost more than five wickets since the last many T20 games speaks volumes of the strength the line-up possesses. But the probability of Virender Sehwag making way for a fifth bowler in the form of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh could prove to be a gamble. Nevertheless, it’s a move that could also pay rich dividends.
Virat Kohli’s stupendous form with the bat is another plus for India. Not only has he been India’s Most Valuable Player since the last few seasons, he’s carried the Indian batting on his shoulders whenever need be. Also, he’s a livewire on the field and can certainly lift the side’s spirits up when the going gets a little sombre.
The Indian bowlers have copped severe criticism since the last few years, yet, bowling continues to be an area of vulnerability. The likes of Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji haven’t come out all guns blazing yet. A the dip In Zaheer Khan’s form implies that the batsmen must add a few more than usual to the scoreboard to compensate for the bowling weaknesses.
Ravichandran Ashwin has been India’s most productive bowler in the overs-limit format of the game, and the fact that Harbhajan Singh too is beginning to find his foothold augurs well for the team.
The duo of David Warner and Shane Watson can dent the confidence of an opposition with their swashbuckling style of play early on in the innings, and there is little doubt that the Australians will be looking at the two to get the side off to a flyer. Watson’s heroics with both the bat and ball during the league stages will hold him in good stead, and he’ll be hoping to carry the momentum throughout the Super Eights where tougher opponents could present a roadblock. Also, Michael Hussey’s experience and the stability he adds to the side cannot be counted out.
Mitchell Starc has been impressive in the bowling department, and his economy rate and average provide ample evidence of that. Moreover, all eyes will be on him, since it’d be interesting to see how the Indians react to his open threat of “chin music”.
Although formidable, the Australian middle-order hasn’t been tested much in Sri Lankan conditions. They’re also devoid of a player like Andrew Symonds who can instantly instil fear in the opposition. Moreover, their proficiency against spin is an unknown quantity. There’s little doubt that India will unleash its spin artillery against them, and the middle-order could eventually have a big role to play in the outcome of the match. Can they fight it out?
The two teams have played six T20 Internationals thus far, winning three each. The last encounter between these two sides was seven months ago at Melbourne, as India romped home with eight wickets to spare. The margin of difference has been significant during five of the six games played. The other occasion was during the 2007 T20 World Cup, a match that India went on to win by just 15 runs.
India will have a psychological edge owing to the fact that they managed to oust Australia during the 2007 T20 World Cup as well as the one that was held last year. On both occasions, India went on to win the coveted titles, and they’ll be hoping to replicate the scenario this time around as well.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)