Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Can India Exorcise their Australian Demon, Reach Finals?

Semi Final 2: Australia vs India at SCG, Sydney on 26th March - Match Preview

These two sides met in the Quarter Final 4 years ago in a highly charged game of cricket and India went on to beat Australia on their way to winning the 2011 World Cup at the Wankhede. The protagonists have changed for both the sides though; Ricky Ponting who scored a superb century and Yuvraj Singh who sealed the chase for the Indians are not there. But there are new heroes waiting to be made and new folktales waiting to be told.

The Australian openers have not had the best of the times in the middle, although both of them have hit a ton each. Finch made a century against the English more than a month ago and Warner pulverized a hapless Afghanistan at Perth. Steven Smith has been a calming figure at the important number 3 position and it was him who made batting seem so easy while Watson struggled against the fire of Wahab in their Quarter Final game against Pakistan.

Michael Clarke has not had an easy initiation back to top flight cricket and Shane Watson has weathered a storm. Glenn Maxwell has been exceptionally consistent with the kind of high risk cricket that he is playing. He seems to be pulling it off with ridiculous ease at the moment. Brad Haddin has made a couple of lively contributions and James Faulkner might get a chance to showcase what he is made of, in the knockout match.

The Indian openers have had a similar tournament to that of their counterparts, Dhawan made a century against the Proteas and the Irish but has looked tentative at the beginning of his innings. Rohit did not do anything up until the Quarter Finals where he made a crucial century that saw India post a big total against the Bangladeshis. Virat Kohli too has cooled off since his century against arch rivals Pakistan in the opening game.

Rahane struggled in the last game but he has the technique and the temperament to fight it out. Raina and Dhoni will have to cope up with the high pace of Starc and Johnson and I am sure that both of these batsmen will be peppered with short balls. How they handle the short ball barrage can well hold the key to deciding the course of this match.

Can Duncan Fletcher and MS Dhoni plot the fall of the 
mighty Australians in the Semi Finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015?

Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc will certainly test the middle of the pitch against then Indian batsmen and they will hope that the Indian batsmen will fall in the trap. They also have the full ball and the batsmen will have to be careful about Starc's deadly yorker.

Josh Hazlewood replaced Cummins in the last game and he showed what good line and length bowling can achieve. He went on to pick 4 wickets that broke the back of the Pakistani batting. James Faulkner and Shane Watson can prove to be very effective on the slow Sydney pitch as they have the variations and an array of slower balls to flummox the batsmen. Glenn Maxwell is the spin bowler along with Clarke who provides a left arm spin option.

Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav have bowled their hearts out thus far in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 but they will have their task cut out against the Australian top order. Finch and Warner are certain to attack them from ball one and how they react to the challenge will be interesting to see. Mohit Sharma has used the short ball against the other teams but it will be cannon and fodder for the Australian batsmen who have been born and bred on these pitches as he does not have the pace to trouble them He must just try to bowl in the channel and force the mistakes from the opposition.

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been superb in the middle overs and their control has been something that has allowed Dhoni to attack in these middle overs. That has also given the leverage to the fast bowlers as the batsmen have always felt that they are under pressure. How they go about on the Sydney pitch which traditionally favors spin can have a big say on the final outcome of this match.

Key Battles: Australia vs India

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja vs Steven Smith and Michael Clarke

Virat Kohli vs Mitchell Johnson

David Warner and Aaron Finch vs Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav

India arrived in Australia in November but they are yet to win anything against the hosts in any format, Australia have had the wood on the Indian team but this is the game that matters the most. If India wins this big Semi Final, then all those losses will almost count for nothing and Australia will feel that they have let the thing slip.

My heart says that India has the arsenal to defeat the Australians but my mind disagrees vehemently saying that the Australians are just too good and strong for the Men in Blue. I hope that I am proved wrong and I wish Team India all the best but more than anything I pray that it is a close, intense and a worthy Semi Final. The Kiwis, after winning their Semi Final against South Africa, await the winners of this clash at the MCG!

PS - The image used is courtesy www.espncricinfo.com

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