Call it an expert observation, a gentle sledge, or whatever. Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, after being eliminated from the World Cup by Australia, predicted that spin could well decide the semifinal between the co-hosts and defending champions India.
Australia seem to have taken the warning seriously. On Sunday, they were fighting a pitched battle — for a green top at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) when they take on India on March 26.
Josh Hazlewood, who wrecked Pakistan, plucking 4 for 35 at the grass-covered Adelaide pitch, wants the SCG groundsmen to allow the Aussie pacers to take charge.
“We’d obviously like some grass on it to suit our quicks. It would help us, with them having a couple of spinners and us favouring the quicks,” he said.
So far, the SCG, famous for helping slow bowlers, has been a batting paradise, with teams racking up massive scores.
Australia go into the game as favourites but are mindful of the fact that they did not pick off-spinner Nathan Lyon, and leftarm spinner Xavier Doherty has hardly played a role so far.
MS Dhoni and his band have gone from strength to strength, and would be having a quiet laugh. While off-spinner R Ashwin is bowling at his wicket-taking best, part-timers Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma apart from Ravindra Jadeja will come into the equation if there are signs of the ball gripping the pitch.
Not that India have needed spin to stay in the tournament. Their pacers have so far worked as a pack, proving that accuracy and subtle variations can do the job as well as liquid pace.
Australia and mind games walk together. With the big battle looming, the hosts are looking to spice things up.
Glenn Maxwell first reminded Dhoni’s men that Australia had dominated them through the summer and Thursday would be no different. Then he took the battle to the pitch. “Hopefully we get a fast one,” he said.
If they don’t get their wish?
The star batsman says he is ready to play the role of frontline spinner. “I’ve taken a couple of wickets this tournament… I feel like I’ve been doing the job that Michael Clarke has been asking of me...”
Are the ground staff listening?
(With inputs from agencies)