NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – India’s top order batsmen will need to find an effective counter to Australia’s fast bowlers in today’s World Cup quarter-final if they are to sustain a billion dreams.
There is every possibility that Australia would unleash a three-pronged pace attack in Ahmedabad to exploit India’s perennial weakness against the fast, rising deliveries that was so cruelly exposed in Chennai on Sunday even by the modest pace of West Indian Ravi Rampaul.
Compared to West Indies, Australia possess a much more potent attack comprising Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson who would crank up the maximum pace they can and direct most of their deliveries to the rib cages of the Indian batsmen.
Both the Indian openers, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, fell to rising deliveries in Chennai and Yuvraj Singh, who struck his 13th ODI century to power India to victory, survived one when he was dropped by West Indies skipper Darren Sammy at point.
India would be naive to believe that Australia skipper Ricky Ponting did not watch and make a note in his diary.
Yuvraj, however, was quick to dismiss the suggestion.
“I don’t think there is an issue with the short ball,” he said.
“If you have an issue with the short ball, you won’t be number one test team and number two one-day team… Definitely we know they have pace and they get wickets with that. We will be prepared for them.”
India believe in Virender Sehwag, they have a batsman who can blunt the Australian pace attack single-handedly and no ploy would work if the opener gets going.
Sehwag missed the match against West Indies with a knee problem but is certain to open the innings today with Tendulkar, who is on the verge of yet another personal milestone — his impending 100th international century.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also gave a good account of himself, opening the attack against West Indies and Virat Kohli’s return to form also augurs well for the side which has shown a recent tendency to squander strong foundations and collapse at the most inopportune time.
Australia would expect their pacemen to force another great Indian collapse in Ahmedabad in front of a full-house at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
Unlike the co-hosts, four-times champions Australia have already played a match at Ahmedabad where they crushed Zimbabwe by 91 runs with Lee, Tait and Johnson claiming seven of the 10 wickets.
Lee has been regularly among the wickets with 12 scalps from six outings, while Tait and Johnson have 10 apiece.
Smarting from the defeat by Pakistan that also snapped their 34-match unbeaten run in World Cups dating back to 1999, Ponting is not happy with the batsmen.
He was particularly annoyed with the sluggish start provided by Shane Watson and Brad Haddin against Pakistan which, he felt, put avoidable pressure on the middle order.
“They ate up too many balls, played too many dot balls and that cost us,” Ponting wrote in a newspaper column.
Incidentally, he himself has not really set alight the tournament with the bat so far and his highest score in the tournament being the 36 he scored against Kenya.
Ponting would derive inspiration from the 2003 final in which he tore apart India’s bowling to smash a belligerent century and guide Australia to their their second successive World Cup victory.