T20 World Cup: Chance for India to deal finishing blow to Australia | Crickit
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T20 World Cup: Chance for India to deal finishing blow to Australia

Jun 24, 2024 06:06 AM IST

Unlike recent India-Australia games in ICC events, this match won’t be about the trophy. Rather, it’s going to be about survival

No one was quite expecting this game to become one that could knock Australia out of the T20 World Cup. The International Cricket Council has tried hard to ensure through trick and treat that the top teams usually find their way into the semis at least, but such is the nature of sport that an upset can never be predicted or denied.

Indian cricket team has remained unbeaten thus far in the 2024 T20 World Cup.(AFP)
Indian cricket team has remained unbeaten thus far in the 2024 T20 World Cup.(AFP)

Afghanistan’s epic win against Australia on Sunday morning (India time) has ensured that India run into their fierce rivals with a chance to land the finishing blow and knock them out of the World Cup.

Whenever India and Australia have met in ICC tournaments of late, the stakes have been high. A brilliant run for Rohit Sharma’s men in the ODI World Cup last year came to end in the final with Travis Head going bonkers. A lengthy ICC Test Championship campaign also ended in the final against the same opposition with Head once again making the big play.

But this match isn’t going to be about the trophy. Rather it is going to be about survival. To keep things simple, Australia need to beat India to ensure they make the semi-final. A defeat will mean their future might depend on a slice of luck.

India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli haven’t clicked into top gear yet. They have had a few cameos but nothing of the kind that has helped their side blow the opposition away. And there’s nothing like a match against Australia to help them switch on and find their focus. The rest of the batting has come along well — Suryakumar Yadav has had a good knock, Rishabh Pant has played a few crucial innings, Hardik Pandya has had his moments and Shivam Dube, at long last, seemed to find his six-hitting range against Bangladesh.

On the bowling front, Arshdeep Singh has been brilliant with the new ball while the genius of Jasprit Bumrah has meant that teams have just not been able to take him on. Those that have tried have failed quite miserably. With the matches shifting to the Caribbean, the left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav is becoming a force to reckon as well, and as such there are few gaps in the line-up for the opposition to exploit.

Some might argue that the Indian batters haven’t quite found their best form but such is the nature of the format that the team management would rather have lots of batters spending time in the middle than just a few at the top of the order. With most having had a decent knock, India seemed primed to take on whatever challenge the opposition can throw at them.

“First things first, recover,” said Australia skipper Mitch Marsh when asked about how they will get ready for India in St Lucia. “We have a lot of belief in our group. We are a very good cricket team. Yes, tonight we had an off night but I guess there’s also a positive in the fact that in 36 hours we go again. It’s a big game, it will be against India and it’s a must-win game. If you look back at the short history of this team, I know for a fact that it brings out the best in our guys, so the boys will certainly be up and about for it.”

Then again, there is nothing like a challenge to fully rouse this Australian team — the tougher the odds, the more likely they are to turn up. They made a lot of uncharacteristic errors against Afghanistan. The fielding was poor, and less said about the batting the better. So, the need to tighten their game with be pretty obvious.

Also Read | Australia captain Mitchell Marsh fires warning to India after defeat to Afghanistan: ‘…no better team to do it against’

A lot though might depend on the nature of the pitch that the match will be played on. If there is enough for the spinners then expect India to hold the upper hand. But if it is the kind of slow-paced wicket that makes playing shots difficult, it might be anybody’s game. Cutters might play a big role and Australia’s plethora of allrounders might make things very interesting. We have seen some big scores at Gros Islet this tournament but the last game between South Africa and England went down to the wire.

At the same time, this is what the second phase of a World Cup should feel like. Rather than the Super 8 stage, you want teams to warm-up in the first stage and put their tournament on the line in the second. India have avoided that by playing consistently good cricket while Australia have shown that ICC still have managed to plug all the holes.

So, for now we can sit back and enjoy a virtual knockout game that seems to have come before its time.

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