When this World Cup is done and dusted, history might view this as the event that definitively ended the career of one of the world's great players, also one of its finest captains.
No one would know this better than Ricky Ponting, as he goes into the match-that-might-change-it-all
against India at Motera. If there's been one underlying topic of discussion at this Cup, it's been about how Ponting seems to have lost focus on both his captaincy and his batting. People are already talking about what's going to happen post the World Cup and he'd be under tremendous pressure, the kind he's never been under through a long and exceptionally successful career, which is why he'd also be finding it a difficult situation to cope with.
Get Punter early
Yet, despite the statistics and records in that career, he now has no choice but to prove his captaincy and himself as a batsman yet again. This is where India's great advantage lies. If they get him out cheaply in case Australia bat first, they'd have him under even more pressure for the rest of the game. It's absolutely vital to keep reminding the opposition about the chinks in their armour through your body language.
They have to be buzzing from ball one. India, in the field so far, have gone through some steep highs and lows. There have been times when they have looked focused and attacked every ball (like after a wicket has fallen) but more often than not, they've looked lethargic, and lacked intensity.
Although Australia haven't looked particularly with it (intensity) either, they're in the quarterfinals; they've won the last three World Cups and they came into the tournament as the world no. 1 team. They have players like Shane Watson, who are capable of turning a game on its head, and as a team, they can never be underestimated.
Australia will be heavily dependent on their fast bowlers. Logically, they'll be looking at sending down a barrage of short-pitched deliveries, into the Indian batsmen's ribs. If the Indian openers can ward those off and get off to a good start, then Australia are in trouble. If you're 60 for no loss against Australia, they don't have a second line of defence. If you are 30-3, then they'll be all over you.
As for India, if the wicket takes a bit of spin I'd go with a 2-2 combine, and play Zaheer, Munaf, Harbhajan and Ashwin. With Sehwag in, one of Pathan and Raina should go out. While I'd stick with Pathan, it's possible that Dhoni goes with Raina.
Whatever the final XI, India should be all charged up. If all the world's a stage, this is where the arc-lights shine brightest. The Cup awaits.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.