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6 key players from India and Australia who can save the match for their team on Thursday

3.74K   //    25 Mar 2015, 17:04 IST
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After a thrilling semi-final at Auckland, the World Cup moves across to Australia for the second semi-final to be played between the hosts and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

All bets are off from here on in for both teams; the one that handles the pressure better will come out trumps in what promises to be yet another exhilarating contest between two well-matched sides.

As we gear up for the high-octane clash, here's a look at 6 players who are going to be absolutely crucial for the two teams.

Virat Kohli

The right-hander will be the pivot around which the Indian batting revolves on Thursday, and Kohli will have massive expectations on his shoulders to deliver the goods.

After a fantastic start to his World Cup campaign, where he scored a hundred against Pakistan at Adelaide, the 26-year-old has got off to starts in most games but has failed to convert any of them into a big one.

But Kohli has shown in the past that he has the ability to deliver on the big stage. The best example of that is the semifinal of the World T20 in Bangladesh last year, when he scored an unbeaten 72 against South Africa to guide the Men in Blue to the final.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith proved to be a nightmare for the Indians during their tour of Australia, where he smashed four centuries in as many Test matches. The right-hander didn't have the best of times in the group stages of the World Cup except for a 95 against Afghanistan. But he made a critical contribution during his side's quarterfinal against Pakistan, making a 69-ball 65 that helped Australia progress through to the final four.

Smith is one of the few players in world cricket today equally comfortable against pace and spin. Given the traditional tendency of the Sydney pitch to aid the spinners, then there's no doubt that Smith will have to play a huge role if the Aussies are to stay ahead of India with the bat in the game.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ashwin's performance this World Cup has been sensational to say the least. The off-spinner has looked to give the ball some air and focussed on bowling more of his off-breaks rather than the carrom ball, a tactic that has paid rich dividends. In fact, the 28-year-old hasn't bowled the carrom ball as often as he has bowled the arm ball, which he has recently added to his armoury.

Most importantly though, Ashwin has laid emphasis on picking wickets in the tournament so far, bowling attacking lines and lengths. If he continues in that vein on Thursday, then India could definitely put Australia under severe pressure.

Glenn Maxwell

Prior to the tournament, several experts had their doubts over whether Glenn Maxwell could rise up and perform on the big stage. But the 26-year-old dasher has certainly proved most of his critics wrong by playing some blistering innings that have taken the game away from the opposition.

The Ashwin-Maxwell contest would certainly be one to look forward to on Thursday. If Maxwell does come up trumps, it would go a long way in sealing Australia a berth in the final on Sunday.

MS Dhoni

While everyone talks about the Sharmas and Kohlis in the Indian batting line-up, one man whose value to the side is often overlooked is skipper MS Dhoni. The 33-year-old has led the side beautifully in the competition so far, and has been aggressive with both shuffling the batting order according to the demands of the situation and providing attacking fields to his bowlers to enable them to bowl wicket-taking lines.

There's no doubt the man from Ranchi will have to play a vital role with both the bat and the gloves on Thursday if India are to make a match of this. The way he shepherds his troops will go a long way in determining if India progress through to their second consecutive World Cup final.

Mitchell Starc

Mitchell Starc has undoubtedly been one of the standout performers of the 2015 World Cup. The left-arm pacer has regularly provided Australia with wickets, both at the front end as well as the back end of the innings. He also produced one of the performances of the tournament when he took 6 for 28 against New Zealand in Auckland, which unfortunately for him went in vain.

Australia has an mighty impressive pace attack, with the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood for support. But if there is one bowler that India needs to be particularly wary of on Thursday, it is Starc.

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