It is difficult to imagine a better script to the context on offer for this final Group 1 match between India and Australia. The two teams will have survived a nervy night in their hotel rooms dealing with a swarm of butterflies, fluttering restlessly in their mind and guts. Sunday’s clash between the two feared rivals promises to be a humdinger with the victor gaining the right to play the semifinal and vanquished packing their bags and nursing bruised egos.
We look at five reasons why India could trump Australia in this all important contest at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
A settled team against a unit rough at the edges
Over the past couple of months, the Indian team and its captain seem to have blended into a balanced unit. There is clarity in the minds of the management about the best composition for this format in general and the WT20 in particular. The Indian XI has remained largely unchanged since the bilateral series against Australia in January.
On the other hand, Australia seem to be all over the place, struggling to establish their best combination. They have used as many as 19 players recently, giving a chance to everyone but Andrew Tye from their 15-strong squad for WT20.
The fact that the game is being played in India, against whom they have lost all three matches in a T20 series Down Under may still be weighing on the minds of Steve Smith and his crew.
Singing a memorable swansong
Shane Watson has already announced that he will quit representing Australia at the end of WT20. MS Dhoni hasn’t. But realistically, both must be counting their games down. Both teams, too, are acutely aware of their contributions over the past decade.
Team India did a great job when they gave Sachin Tendulkar a World Cup title in 2011 by way of a farewell gift. The current team will also try utmost to provide just the right setting for Dhoni’s likely walk into the sunset. It is difficult to say, however, if Watson will evoke the same warmth and excitement among his teammates.
There are other variables in motivation levels too.
It may be recalled that India dumped Australia in the semis of the 2011 ODI World Cup but four years later, the visitors avenged that loss by getting the better of India in the semis. India’s wounds are fresher with many on the current team being victims of that defeat, exactly a year ago at Sydney. Overall, India seem better equipped and ready as a unit to battle against this Australian team, knowing that victory is non-negotiable for survival in the tournament.
Law of averages could work in India’s favour
India’s batting line-up hasn’t fired so far in their three group matches. Rohit Sharma (5, 10 & 18), Shikhar Dhawan (1, 6 & 23), Suresh Raina (1, 0 & 30) and Yuvraj Singh (4, 24 & 3) have been found wanting at the crease so far. They have been relying on the fiery skills of Virat Kohli and the icy composure of Dhoni. Considering Dhawan’s penchant for big games and the fact that a quality line-up will eventually fire, there is a good likelihood of the top order combining well in Mohali. The ground conditions too could play into the hands of the batsmen.
The two earlier games in Mohali have resulted in tall scores, suggesting that the wicket for Sunday’s crucial encounter will be another belter. New Zealand and Pakistan combined to score 338 runs in the first game while Australia and Pakistan poured out 365 runs on Friday. While the wicket could play slower through the latter half, it is still a batsmen’s paradise. The nature of the wicket and the fact that Australia have an unsettled bowling line-up, barring James Faulkner, could play into the hands of the Indians on Sunday.
India have a better bowling attack when it comes to spin
In Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India have quality spin options with the ability to take wickets or slow down an Aussie charge. Relatively, rival spinners Adam Zampa and Glen Maxwell do not have enough ammunition to trouble the seasoned Indian batters.
Jasprit Bumrah has been very consistent so far and very intelligent with the variations in pace and length. Ashish Nehra hasn’t been as incisive as he may like to be but the match against Australia presents him an opportunity to change that. On the other hand, Australia have problems on the bowling front. Nathan Coulter-Nile is yet to take a wicket and is likely to make way for John Hastings. James Faulkner has been impressive, but it would be too much to expect him to produce yet another massively impactful performance as he did against Pakistan (5-27).
Hardik Pandya could prove to be a tricky test too after his confidence-boosting effort against Bangladesh. The young all-rounder bowled that epic final over in which three wickets fell off the last three balls to keep India alive with a nail biting one run victory.
The assured mindset of the Indian attack is in stark contrast with the sense of uncertainty and insecurity that seem to characterise the bowling resources of Australia.
Weight of precedent should work in India’s favour
The last time Australia defeated India in a T20I was in the 2012 WT20 in Sri Lanka. Since then, India have defeated Australia in all five T20I matches. As much as Steve Smith might smart from their 0-3 humiliation at home, it will be a Himalayan task for him to lead his fragile team.
The enormity of the game is also likely to help strengthen the resolve of the Indian team to perform better in front of a capacity crowd in Mohali. The noise in the stadium and the pressure from the game should offer enough opportunity for India to exert pressure.
It is likely that the team winning the toss could bat first. Both the games in Mohali went the way of the side making first use of the wicket. And the high-stakes encounter will only exaggerate the impact of a score on the board.
India are likely to present a more confident face given their recent success against Australia as well as a deep desire to extend their run in this WT20 under home conditions.
Surround yourselves with friends and family, assemble a hot meal and immerse yourself in the game that promises to provide edge-of-the-seat thrills on Sunday evening.