This was to be expected. The way Group 2 was stacked up, the last game for at least a couple of teams was going to be the knockout one. And so, in this case it is India and Australia. At the start of the tournament, many had predicted that the Aussies and the Kiwis would be battling for the second semi-final spot, with hosts and favourites India being the first team to go through. But, the New Zealanders have turned the equation on its head, winning four in four. In fact, the Kiwis outdid both Australia and India, which is one of the prime reasons why Sunday’s clash at Mohali had turned out to be a virtual quarter-final.
The last time these two teams met at Mohali in a World event was during the 2011 World Cup game, in which India overcame the Aussies in style. But, it will be India’s recent form against the world champions in the T20 format that will give them more confidence. They defeated Australia 3-0 in the latter’s own backyard, at the start of the year. While that was a historic win, that is now history. What will matter on Sunday is how the team performs on that day. Both teams have tasted similar fortunes recently, thrashing Pakistan and scraping home against Bangladesh.
Although India beat Bangladesh in their previous match, it was more to do with the latter throwing away the game rather than India winning it. There’s a lot that India needs to get right, particularly in the batting department. Their over-dependence on Virat Kohli is particularly worrying. The time has come for openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to stand up and deliver. In batting-friendly conditions Down Under, both were at ease as the ball came on to the bat. Rather unbelievably, they have been unable to replicate their success in home conditions. The ball stopping and coming on slowly cannot be taken as an excuse.
It will be unfair of India to expect Kohli to be the match-winner every time India find themselves in a do-or-die situation. But, India’s number three himself has admitted that he loves such challenging situations. Kohli failed in last year’s World Cup semi-final against the same opponent, so he has an opportunity to make amends. Suresh Raina will be under pressure to perform, while Yuvraj Singh will be keen to shine on his home ground. The bowling duties will again be divided among Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Unlike India, Australia haven’t had a settled line-up, experimenting throughout. But, they have still managed to make it thus far. They will take a lot of confidence from the comprehensive win over Pakistan. Skipper Steven Smith, who roared back to form against Shahid Afridi’s men, has a terrific record against the Indians. Shane Watson, who has announced his retirement, also got a brilliant hundred the last time these two teams met. Usman Khawaja had looked serene while not getting big runs, but the form of David Warner should worry them. In the bowling, India must watch out for Adam Zampa, as he is capable of doing a Santner.
--By A Cricket Analyst