The group stage is over and so is the scope of any easy matches. There are not going to be any more foregone conclusions. The business end of the tournament starts on the 27th, with Sri Lanka taking on New Zealand. But let’s not talk about this and shift our focus to the task at hand. India begin their tough super eight campaign on the 28th, locking horns with Australia at the Premadasa stadium. They are set to have their work cut out when they face each other. Both teams will be upbeat for the challenge and the match is expected to be nothing less than a cliffhanger. Both teams will give it their all, but who will rule the roost is to be seen. The best thing about such matches is you cannot pick a clear winner and they provide just the things viewers want, competition and quality.
India had a decent performance against Afghanistan, but were clinical against the current World Cup winners, England. Inspite of this, they have left much to be desired. The overall batting looks good with Kohli, undoubtedly India’s best batsman in prime form and with the likes of Rohit Sharma and Gambhir coming back of good knocks against England. Yuvraj has made a comeback after a long injury lay off but has looked good in his 2 knocks since his return, scoring a 24 ball 36 against the Kiwis and 18 against Afghanistan. But he also adds a lot of value with his bowling with his last performance being 3 for 24.
The real worry for India comes in the top order with Sehwag completely out of form. Also, the finisher’s role which has been taken up by Dhoni and Raina too is something India will have to scratch their head for. Both have been perilously out of form. Also the bowling unit seems to be a real worry, with India’s star bowler who has a lot resting on his shoulders failing to deliver. Although if you look at the scorecard against England, who were bundled out for a mere 80 in 14.4 overs , you will be over the moon, but that would be a false notion. England didn’t help their cause with poor batting, plus they are pretty clueless against spin bowling without the likes of Bell and Pietersen. So, bowling area is also one to be strengthened and paid attention to.
India tried to play with 5 bowlers against England which came in handy, but the move to open with Pathan backfired. There is no way Sehwag can be left out of the team because players like him take no time to get back in form in addition to the threat they pose for the opposition is one which no words can express. That means either of Raina or Rohit will have to give way for the 5th bowler, which seems unlikely, although leaving out Raina won’t be a bad idea. Also, the Premdasa has always been a good batting track and the case hasn’t been different this time around. So, playing with 5 bowlers won’t be a bad idea, as it is one is not going to efficiently use 7 batsmen in a T20 game, that too on a placid batting track. But to be honest and realistic, India is more likely to go ahead with a 7-4 combo.
Australia on the other hand, have been terrific and have a well settled team. They dismissed Ireland for a meager 123 and then chased it down in just 15 overs with just 1 wicket down. Against West Indies, although they conceded quite heavily, but then came back strongly in the match via some superb batting.
All in all, Australia seems to be in form with their batsman hitting form and they have always been a good bowling unit. Headed by Starc and Cummins and well supported by the magnificent Watson, the bowling seems to be in safe hands yet again. The good thing for Australia is their star player Watson is firing on all cylinders with 2 man of the match awards in 2 games. He had a 3 for 26 spell followed by a quick fire 51 against Ireland and a 2 for 29 followed by a 24 ball 41 against the Windies. These stats seem enough to scare any opposition. Even Warner and Hussey seem to be finding their touch. But, the only worry for Australia seems to be that they are top heavy and there is too much reliance on the top 3-4. Also, there have been question marks on their captain Bailey’s place in the side, leave aside his captaincy. That might not be very good for a team when there are doubts cast over your leader.
Now after assessing the strengths and weaknesses of both the sides, it’s time to have a look at their head to head which stands at 3-3. So, there’s not much to choose between the two. But India has a better head to head in T20 World Cups, having met only on 1 occasion. The last time these two teams met in a T20, India had a comprehensive 8 wicket victory, Gambhir the top scorer with 56. But, the fact they were altogether different conditions and both the teams had a different structure with some key players from Australia missing, namely Watson, nothing much should/can be derived from this.
Toss could turn out to be a crucial factor; with Premdasa having a 62% win record for team’s batting first. India having batted first in both their encounters and Australia chasing victories in both will make it interesting how the teams fare when they are asked to do it the other way round.
To conclude, Australia have a much settled side, with key players in form, but are top heavy. They have a good bowling contingent too. On the other hand, India need to settle their 11, and hope the star players hit form. Their batting is their strength.
Considering the venue which has always been a high scoring ground, India’s stronger batting line up gives them an upper hand, but Australia aren’t much behind. But, if one needs to be picked, India are favourites considering stronger batting lineup, sub continental conditions and bowling gathering some form and momentum against England, in contrast to Australia who are top heavy, and their bowlers might repeat England’s mistake of trying to bounce India out, because apart from Raina, no one is really troubled by short stuff. It’s 60-40 in favour of India. This might change after the toss. The team winning the toss will in all probability bat first and this could prove to be pivotal, considering Premadasa’s record.
India(11): Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Sharma, Raina, Dhoni(c,wk), Harbhajan,Ashwin, Balaji, Zaheer.
Australia(11): Warner, Watson, Hussey, White, Maxwell, Bailey(c), Wade(wk), Christian, Hogg, Cummins, Starc.