Admittedly this millennium is only a decade and a half old, but there is no denying that Australia and India have played out their rivalry across the World and across all formats, most often with big prizes at stake. A rivalry that started off in breath taking fashion in the ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya (2000) has given us classics in all three formats of the game are set to play another installment – this time in the semi-finals of the World Cup at SCG.
Both teams have gone through transitions in this period of time, but the expectations on the teams and the intensity they bring to the battles on the field remains as high as always and given the other semifinal that was played out in New Zealand, the fans will be hoping for another thrilling battle as the World Cup winds down this week. The teams are coming into this show-down in blazing form. India have won all the matches they have played thus far and Australia have lost only one match – a supremely close encounter to the other unbeaten team in the tournament – New Zealand.
About 40 days ago, this would have been deemed as a straight forward encounter for Australia as India were in a bad funk – unable to find a single win in the two months they were in Australia. Once the World Cup started however, India have found some magical phone booth to transform into a team of super men and have raked up seven wins out of the seven matches they have played. Australia – as has been the case for the better part of this millennium have entered a premier ODI event as favorites and though had a minor hiccup against New Zealand in the group stage, the way they went about defending a meager score of 150 tells there is no certainty when you play Australia.
A quick look at the teams tells us the tale of the match. The batting units are more or less on equal footing with each unit filled with match winners that can stamp their authority on the match. Between both teams, they have some of the biggest hitters (Warner, MS Dhoni, Maxwell, Shikhar Dhawan), some of the most skilled batsmen (Steve Smith, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Michael Clarke) and a good support cast (Aaron Finch, Ajinkya Rahane, Faulkner, Jadeja, Haddin, Ashwin). It is safe to say that this match will hinge mostly on how the teams fare with the ball in hand.
It is in the bowling department that Australia seem to have a leg up against the Indians. However, the edge that Australian teams have, traditionally, enjoyed over the Indian teams in the bowling department has always been immense. This time around the Indian bowling attack is in good form and should the pitch assist the spinners, one might even say the Indians might pose more problems to the Australians than the other way around. As things stand however, the Australian bowling led by the immaculate Mitchell Starc will be asking many questions of the Indian batting. This will be the battle that will have a huge influence on which team will emerge victorious in this contest of equals.
This will also be the first time since 1987, when the captain of the Indian team has won more World Cups than his Australian counterpart. While in the longer format of the game, one may give the edge to Michael Clarke as a leader, MS Dhoni is, perhaps, the greatest LOI captain to have played the game. Should Australia, so much as show some chinks in their batting armour, one can be sure Dhoni will use his vast experience and tactical nous to drive the proverbial stake to bring down the juggernaut that is the Australian.
In many ways this will be a match up of a team that has built up good momentum since the World Cup has begun against a team that started as favorites pre-tournament but have not had the opportunity to stamp their authority on the tournament as yet. This match will be a great opportunity for either team to make it to the finals with a win that will put the teams one win away from another trophy to the multiple trophies the teams have collected thus far this millennium.
Prediction: India have the momentum and form but Australia have been putting up the results on the board for just a bit longer and in the end that might just prove to be clinching factor in this big match.