The ICC World Cup 2011 has seen plenty of humdingers especially with matches involving England in Group B. The barmy army have surprisingly won against tough opponents at Chennai and lost to Ireland and Bangladesh on their way to the quarterfinals. While India on the other hand have played reasonably well with a good solid batting performance expect for the hiccups during the batting power play. Saving from a couple of good performances from Zaheer and Yuvraj, our bowling has looked depleted and slack.
With India placed second in the group, they will have a big roadblock ahead of them against the Aussies. An unexpected finish to the league match for the Aussies losing to Pakistan in the group stage puts them on third place, their first lose in 34 world cup matches. The quarterfinal match up between the heavily loaded India batting lineup against mighty Aussies is almost a pre-final of the World Cup.
Gary Kirsten and MSD will having to put their thinking hat to get rid of the Aussies in a grand fashion and giving them a good chance to face Pakistan in the Semi's at Mohali (all possibility that Pakistan will beat Windies in the other quarters).
Looks very straight forward to me, They should stick on to the team that played the previous match against Windies at Chennai with Sehwag replacing Suresh Raina.
I think the team needs to be patient with Yusuf, he is such a big match player who can single handedly turn the match on its head and also comes very handy with his off breaks. Not to forget he is a outstanding fielder on the boundary ropes.
The Pitch: - The toss is critical
India by all measures would want to bowl second, we might not want to make a mistake by putting Aussies to bat, they we did in WC 2003 finals and got thulped badly. I am sure Zaheer khan will never forget the horrendous first over giving away 13 runs.
This will play a major part in the match, am guessing that the curators are well-aware of what kind of pitch to prepared given that we have 4-5 slow bowlers and on the other hand Aussies have a good pace attack. I would expect the pitch to be flat and slightly sluggish, absolutely no grass what so ever. Sidhu the other day commented "It is our home ground, we are not here playing for charity, we are here to win and we need to prepare that suits our style of play". I completely agree with his comments, lets play to our strengths. With Harbhajan, Ashwin , Yuvraj and Yusuf operating it is a daunting task for the Aussies to see them off.
In simple words, i would expect a track to similar to the one we played in Chennai the other day against Windies. Very placid during the first innings and later on giving some assistance to spin.
Batting - Batting power play needs to be addressed
The key to indian batting is to learn how to NOT LOSE wickets in batting power play. We have not understood the art of batting through the power play. If you have noticed closely the problem is with a well-set batsmen trying to go over the top which is completely unnecessary. On 2 occasions one against SA and other one against WI, Tendulkar and Yuvaraj tried to accelerate by going down the track. The new batsmen will not go for his shots right from the word go, and eventually makes it difficult to start picking singles and twos when the field is set in. This is when we lose out on trying to go over the in-field giving out dolly catches.
Bowling - Our strength is Spin and Zaheer khan
MSD is very tactical in his approach on and off the field, waiting on Ashwin till the last league match and was right on the money. All credit goes to Ashwin giving a good solid performance with the bowl picking 2 wickets and being introduced from the first over. This ploy could have easily played against India had Gayle played the match. Otherwise Zaheer has been the best bowler so far, giving the conditions he asked to bowl. He came back to pick up crucial wickets in his second spell both against England and West Indies, he has come of age and as always been the trump card for MSD. Harbhajan has few good performances to back him up, but we have seen that Aussies and especially Punter is vulnerable playing against the turbanator. That will be a interesting sequence of play, MSD will be eagerly waiting to introduce Harbhajan when his counterpart captain is on the crease.
The key challenge for India is to keep wickets during the batting power play, and someone like Yusuf or MSD can go bang bang.
Not to forget Yuvraj is a big match player, am betting heavily on him to take India past Quarters.
As expected if Sehwag gets going, Aussies are in for cover. Indian batsmen should look to pick Krejza and make heavy weather of his bowling.
if India bats first, we would look to score some where between 280 - 300. Looking at the previous records, the highest first innings score is 360.
If India bowls first, we would look to restrict them to 250 - 270. We saw that chasing against Aussies is always a uphill task, Pakistan made heavy weather when chasing a small score of 176.
Given all the possibilities and form, India has a upper hand to win this encounter. The key match players to me are Yuvraj and Ashwin. Aussies have not seen much of Ashwin before this and it will be tough to pick him off early.
Aussies have couple of big match winners, Brett Lee is a genuine match winner. The other day if the Aussies had another 25 odd runs to defend, Pakistan would have been sitting in a deep hole.
Everything said and done, an intriguing match on cards at Motera. The men in blue should scrap through this one and will be a bitter revenge for their lose during their WC 2003 finals at Johannesburg.