India and Australia will play their first Super Eight game against each other on 28th September at the R. Premadasa stadium in Colombo. Both sides have been in very similar form so far. Not many would consider either as title contenders but on their day, they are capable of destroying any other side. Both sides have also not been consistent with their performances during the tournament.
India were made to work hard to win against Afghanistan and ran riot over defending champions England a few days. Australia too have two wins, their first a convincing one against Ireland and the second one – where they conceded 191 runs against the West Indies – but nonetheless did enough with the bat to win that game via the D/L method.
Placed in a group alongside India, South Africa and Pakistan, George Bailey will know the importance of these fixtures. A defeat will not lead to immediate elimination but in a group like this, every point will be hard fought. Also, a win against India, a team quite familiar with the conditions in Sri Lanka will give his side the much needed momentum.
In terms of team combinations, Australia don’t seem to have much trouble. All rounder Shane Watson has been in sublime nick, winning the Man of the Match award in both the previous games Australia have played so far. Bailey will rely heavily on his batsman to counter an Indian bowling attack that hasn’t been the most formidable.
As far as Dhoni’s men are concerned, every fixture will be one of prime importance. To be able to beat Australia in their first Super 8 will give them the confidence of trying to go all the way in the tournament. He is currently faced with the problem of plenty after fielding a changed side against England. The changes that came in did the job for the captain, making it a hard decision for the captain to make.
Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Ravichandran Ashwin were rested in the previous game with Ashok Dinda, Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh replacing them. While Chawla and Bhajji did exceptionally well, Dinda’s two overs went rather unnoticed. Against Australia, Dhoni will have to be careful with his combinations. The safest bet would be to assume that he will bring back all the three who sat out and bench Ashok Dinda, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Piyush Chawla, who will have to be sacrificed for Dhoni’s blue-eyed boy Ashwin.
Many would expect this combination to work, but from past records, most of them will brace themselves for a Dhoni surprise.
Head to head: India and Australia have played six T20s against each other, winning three each. The fixture on te29th will give them a chance to go one up against each other.
Players to watch
Virat Kohli: Of late, Virat Kohli has become, if I may say so, the Mr. Dependable of the side. With openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir having not put on a decent partnership for a long time now, Kohli has more often than not come in at number three and steadied the ship for the team.
Shane Watson has been Australia’s top scorer in the tournament so far and Kohli is only two runs behind him as India’s top scorer. In a big game like this one, Virat Kohli’s innings could be the difference between the two sides.
Harbhajan Singh: Harbhajan Singh is hungry! He is raring to go! He will be ready to dig into any batting line-up and wield his hammer and tongs on them. Much has been spoken about a decline in his game and the fact that his career was all but over. In fact, his name in the T20 World Cup squad wasn’t met with too many cheers.
But the champion that he is, he made a comeback, and how! He ripped apart the England batting line-up, picking up four wickets and giving away just 12 runs in his quota of four overs. He will be itching to have a go at the Aussie batsmen too. In his head, he has a lot to prove to the world, to assure them that he is certainly not finished.
Dhoni needs to realize that and use him well against the Aussies. If I were him, I’d unleash him up front against an in-form Watson and David Warner, who doesn’t like to be kept silent for too long.
Rohit Sharma: Another out-of-sorts batsman who came to life in the game against England. Rohit Sharma is the talented boy who has failed to show up at the right time. Unfortunately for his detractors, he showed up against England, scoring a wonderful half-century. If sent in at number four again, he will be eager to get as many runs under his belt as he can and another fifty will only do him and his career a world of good.
If India lose both their openers early on, the decision to send Rohit Sharma to accompany Kohli at the crease could be the right move.
Shane Watson: This man has been in the form of his life. Two matches, two match winning performances. There’s very little that he can go wrong with. His consistency will be under scrutiny against an opponent like India. But on current form, there is every possibility he will walk away with yet another Man of the Match award.
David Warner: The hard hitting opener could be the biggest trouble maker for India early on. India’s pace attack has been very erratic, having leaked runs even to Afghanistan. A lack of pace on the slow wicket of Premadasa will only help Warner hit the Indian pacers all over the park.
His presence at the crease will set the tone for a big Australian total.
Mike Hussey: Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey has the habit of turning up in form against India. He is one of those who will come out and score a lot of runs against the Blues.
His 28 off 19 deliveries against West Indies helped Australia go past the asking rate according to the Duckworth-Lewis method. His number three position is absolutely critical in a big game like this and he will be expected to play a major role in the Australian batting setup.
Prediction: For once, both my heart and mind are strongly with India. It’s going to be a tough fixture but I see India coming away with a win: a hard fought closely contested one at that.