After a vigorous practice session on Wednesday, limbs weary and faces beaten down by the harsh sun, India’s players returned to their plush hotel in Barbados. Had they put on the television, they would have seen a fairly frightening sight.
Australia, who they play on Friday, were cut down to 65 for 6 by some imaginative Bangladesh bowling. In typical fashion, Mike Hussey led the rescue, chipping, charging and driving with precision and good sense and Australia posted 141. They set about defending it with such fierce determination that Bangladesh, who briefly entertained thoughts of a big upset, were simply blown away.,
Two things stood out in Australia’s win - wave after wave of express quick deliveries crashing down on the batsmen, and fielders making tough catches look easy and impossible ones possible. The combination of these aspects make India’s job in their next match a daunting one.
Given the history of some of India’s top order struggling against well-directed, quick short-pitched bowling - so much so that Rahul Dravid was briefly recalled from the wilderness for an ODI series last year - you can be sure this mode of attack will feature prominently in Australia’s plans.
“I think our fast bowlers will bowl as much short stuff as they like, irrespective of what I say,” said Aussie skipper Michael Clarke. “We batsmen certainly cop it in the nets. So, I would imagine we’d definitely see it in the game against India. We have pace up our sleeve and I’m certain we’ll use it in these conditions.”
The conditions Clarke referred to were the much talked about Kensington Oval pitch. While it certainly isn’t lightning quick, like some West Indian surfaces of old, the two matches on Wednesday - Australia v Bangladesh and South Africa v Afghanistan - showed that tall scores would be an exception rather than the rule. Tall fast bowlers will get a bit of extra bounce, and Australia have no shortage of members of that tribe.
The good news for India is that the surface was also taking turn, and experienced spinners, the department in which India score most heavily in comparison to Australia, will come right into the picture. “I think spin’s going to play a big part in this tournament - both how you play spin and bowl it,” said Clarke.
India have some good spin bowlers and Harbhajan’s one of the best in the world. We’re going to work out a plan against him and back ourselves at that. Every player in our team plays spin differently. You need to be confident with your plan and stick to that.”
With Friday’s game being the one that could set the tournament for one half of the draw, there’s a delicious sense of anticipation in the air.