India went into the second semifinal very much the underdogs, having won only one of the last 14 encounters at the SCG. Also, over the last four months in Australia, they have not beaten the hosts in any form of the game. The big question was whether Australia’s supremacy would continue over the defending champions.
Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, had declared on match eve, “We know their strengths and weaknesses and we know they are playing very good cricket. We are going to have to execute our skills as well as we can, and if we can do that I am confident that we can beat any team we play against.”
Australia did talk the talk.
During the Cup though, India had regained the form and confidence and won seven games in a row. They bowled every team out till the semifinal, which means the bowlers had done a fantastic job. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, in particular, made batting look formidable at times.
Batting first, Australia were on target for a 380-400 score. Eventually, they still got a very good score, but at one stage Australia may have been dismissed for 290. The partnership between Steve Smith and Aaron Finch set the foundation.
I was disappointed with the way the Indian pace bowlers went about their work. Whilst there were some good balls, there were too many free-scoring deliveries too. The tactics of bowling short and short of length at times proved costly, especially when the line varied so much. There were far too many pulls, hooks and pick-up shots on the leg side.
Ironically, it brought about a few dismissals, but overall the Australians profited from that type of bowling.
I do not understand why bowlers refuse to bowl more yorkers especially when 110-130 runs are now being scored off the final 10 overs. Umesh Yadav, Mohd Shami and Mohit Sharma conceded around 70 runs or more.
For India, to chase down 329, someone needed to score big. Sadly, they succumbed to some hostile bowling from Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood. Kohli’s dismissal had a huge negative impact on the team. He ended up having a disappointing Cup. Perhaps, there was too much pressure on him to succeed.
To score at a rate of 15 runs per over in the last 10 overs was too much for Dhoni and Jadeja. Perhaps, there will be an inquiry as to whether someone like Yuvraj Singh may have helped.
Recent clashes between India and Australia have been testing and quite often spiteful with player confrontations and sledging. Johnson was prepared to accept the mantle of being the ‘chief sledger’ if David Warner was going to be quiet.
Johnson said, “I will take on the role of Australia’s chief sledger for semifinal. I love it --- the more that comes my way, the better.” That comment is contrary to the ICC’s Code of Conduct. This is boyish and silly stuff.
The writer is a former NZ cricketer (Hawkeye / Chivach Sports)