When Defending Champions meet Overwhelming Favourites
by Arun S Kaimal

Ground:Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Scorecard:Australia v India
Player:SK Raina, V Kohli, MS Dhoni, SPD Smith, DA Warner, AJ Finch, MJ Clarke
Event:ICC World Cup 2014/15

DateLine: 24th March 2015


Defending champions India take on Australia in the second semi-final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney on 26th March. Australia have never lost a semi–final they have ever played in the World Cup while India have a record of two wins and two losses. But when the two teams clash on Thursday, either the defending champions or the overwhelming favourites will need to say goodbye to the World Cup, at least for now.


India have gone through unbeaten in this World Cup with seven out of seven wins but now face a team they have been unable to beat in the past three months. Nevertheless, the Indian team is oozing with confidence after the unbeaten group stages and a convincing quarter-final victory against Bangladesh. The revitalised bowling attack which has scalped 70 batsmen in 7 matches coupled with an energetic fielding unit and a world-class batting line up means 'Team India' has become a genuine threat to the mighty Aussies.


Australia’s form in the World Cup has been patchy, they finished second in their group behind co–hosts New Zealand and made it to the semi–final after a tight contest against Pakistan. Australia go into the match holding the upper hand, knowing their opponents have not won against them in the last three months. With star duo, Glen Maxwell and Mitchell Starc prominent in their side, Australia starts as overwhelming favourites in the semi–final showdown.


When these two teams met last in the World Cup 2011 quarter-final, India ended up on the winning side thanks to a brilliant half-century by Yuvraj Singh and a late flourish by Suresh Raina. In the absence of experienced players the Indian team will be banking on Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and M S Dhoni to repeat the historic victory. As swords are drawn by the two teams before the battle, one can surely expect to see some tempers flare-up between the fierce rivals on the field. Both sides are filled with feisty characters and emotions will play a big part in the high pressure knock-out game.


India’s seam bowling attack of Yadav, Shami and Mohit may not look ominous in front of the mighty attack led by the Mitchells- Johnson and Starc, along with Hazelwood and Faulkner, but they have altready shown their mettle in the last few games. India’s spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja will be looking to uproot Australian wickets in a pitch considered to be the most spin friendly track in Australia. The quarter-final between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the same venue saw the spinners taking seven wickets including a hat-trick by JP Duminy. As Australia does not have a world class spinner the India will surely be hoping for a spin friendly track against on Thursday.


In batting, both teams can claim to possess a world-class batting lineup capable of creating high scores. For India, the opening duo of Dhawan and Rohit have been in good form with centuries in their kitties and the trusted middle order of Kohli, Rahane and Raina will be looking to support the top order with some runs. Dhoni and Jadeja at 6 and 7 respectively will make the batting line up more lethal. On the Australian side, Finch and Warner are a dangerous opening duo, although both have been largely inconsistent so far in the tournament. Reliable Steven Smith and Micheal Clarke along with a dangerous lower middle order of Watson, Maxwell, Haddin and Faulkner makes for a world-class batting lineup.


In the fielding department, Aussies will have the upper hand, but India will be trying to match it with youthful exuberance. Captains, Dhoni and Clarke will be looking to outwit each other in this crucial encounter.


Both teams are unlikely to make any changes to the lineups which played in the quarter finals. One thing is for sure that, fans from all over the world will be glued to the nearest TV screens to watch the semi–final or as some say, ‘the final that never happened.’


(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2015 Arun S Kaimal)