Thursday is going to be a D-Day for India as well as Australia. One will succeed in achieving their goals another one will go home . 4 time champions and 3 consecutive time winners of the World Cup trophy, can Aussies pass the litmus test? According to law of averages they will fail but you never count them out because they are virtually invincibles. For India, Champion of 1983 edition, this is the biggest occasion to show the world that they are the top side in the World and they are still favourites to win the trophy. Its a final before the final. Its revenge time for India. Its time to settle few old scores which is haunting Indian team and Indian cricket for very long. Its time to break the arrogance of the most arrogant team in the world. Will Dhoni and his men do it?
It is the ground where history created many times. Legendary Sunil Gavaskar reached his landmark of 10000 runs and became first cricketer to achieve that feat. Kapil Dev broke the record of highest wickets of Sir Richard Hadlee on this very ground when he claimed 432nd wicket. This ground also witnessed first double century of Sachin Tendulkar in test cricket. So as far as records are concern Motera ground is happy hunting ground for the Indians but their ODI record is poor on this ground as they lost 7 matches out of 13. So this record is speaking against Indians.
India possess best batting line-up in the World at the moment but that batting failed to an extent in the tournament so far. Tendulkar and Sehwag are among the highest run-getters but middle-order failed to impress so far and often Indian batting collapsed in the tournament after getting into good positions. I think India have to rectify that and they have to sort out the 'Powerplay Ghost' immediately because thats where Team India is losing the plot. But there is good thing that Team India is collapsing after reaching good scores and that will give them some solace when they take on mighty Aussies at Motera in Ahmedabad. So far India played on the venues where they got flat pitches and Motera will not going to be different one.
Indian batting will get some more strength with the return of its swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag who missed the last group stage game against West Indies due to allergic reaction in the knee. Sehwag's sheer presence on the crease is enough to demoralise the opposition. Who can forget his 83 run innings against Australia in 2003 World Cup finals at Johannesburg. He was the only batsmen who took on mighty Aussies in that game. So top-order batting is not that bigger concern for India it is middle-order and lower-order which has failed to score runs when required.
India's bowling was considered its weakest link and it was matter of concern till the match against West Indies but with the inclusion of R. Ashwin it has certainly got teeth to its attack. So far Zaheer Khan was the lone warrior but now he will get good enough support from Ashwin and Harbhajan has also showed the signs of improvement since last few matches, so bowling is no more weak link. One can also keep in mind that so far Indian bowlers bowled on the flat tracks where opposition bowlers were also gone for plenty so I think in Ahmedabad if Indian bowlers will go for runs then Aussie bowlers will also leak plenty of runs. I think more than bowling Dhoni have to work on the field placings because field placings often affect the bowler's performance. So far Dhoni set defensive fields and never tried to attack the opposition batsmen and thats where India faltered. I think Dhoni have to be offensive in the field placings. I think Harbhajan and Ashwin must have silly point, slip and a short leg when they are bowling. Dhoni have to keep atleast 5 fielders in the ring in order to stop the quick singles so that will create pressure on opposition batsmen to go for big shots and that will give chance to the bowlers to pick up wickets. So field placings have to be spot-on and no easy singles for the opposition batsmen if India wants to stop its opposition from getting big score.
Aussies are coming into match with a defeat under their belt at the hands of Pakistan. Pakistan broke their consecutive 34 matches winning streak in the World Cup and Australians will be over-cautious in the match against India. Form of captain Ricky Ponting is big concern for Australia but he is a big match player and he is one innings away from hitting the form and its possible that he hits the form against India because he was the one who scored 140 runs of 121 balls against India in 2003 World Cup finals which eventually Australia won. So Aussies must be expecting similar kind of innings from Ponting at Motera if they want to go into semis. Motera wicket will be a belter and it will give good opportunity to Ricky Ponting to score half-century or century. So India have to be cautious of that and try to pick Ricky as early as possible. Brett Lee and Shane Watson are the back-bone of Australian team. If these two will perform to their potential in this crucial game then Australia will certainly win this game. Brett Lee is the only bowler who got Sachin Tendulkar out 14 times in 39 games most by any bowler in the world. So Sachin v/s Lee will going to be mouth-watering contest.
Australia have few middle-order batting issues like India and their middle-order have to click at any cost at Motera. If their midlle-order fails which often happened in the tournament so far then this will going to be their last match in this World Cup. Another problem is their spin department. They don't have quality spinner in their ranks who can run through the side which is required badly in the sub-continental conditions. They must be missing Shane Warne badly as Jason Krezja failed to impress so far and Steve Smith, the leg-spinner has been not utilized much by Ponting. So big headache for Ponting as far as spin bowling is concern and Aussies batsmen themselves are vulnerable against spinners. If we talk about Shaun Tait and Mitchel Johnson then Tait looked liability so far and Johnson has picked up wickets but in patches as there is no consistency seen in Johnson's bowling and flat wicket of Motera will not serve very well to the Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. Ponting have to come out with innovative plans to tackle strong Indian batting line-up other wise high scoring game is on cards at Motera.
This is the contest which cricket lovers waiting for a while and it will be interesting to see who will advance to the semis because it is evenly balanced contest.