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Can India end Australia's dominance in World Cup?

Thursday March 24, 2011 04:57:17 PM, IANS

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Ahmedabad: Going by the relative strengths of India and Australia, the World Cup quarterfinal between two strong rivals here Thursday will be fought on level terms at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera here.

India will have to tighten their game, and the batting in particular, if they harbour any hopes of avenging their 2003 final loss to the defending champions.

If the Australians hope to cash in on their tearaway pacers, the Indians think their solid batting lineup can handle the thunderbolts; if Australia feel they have adequate batting resources to take them across the line, the Indians are confident that they have bowlers to stymie them.

The one area the four-time champions score over the 1983 champions is in the fielding -- the Aussies can convert ones into twos and cutoff the possibilities of the Indians taking a second run. It is one for the throw when Australia are batting and none when they are fielding.

The one big psychological factor in India's favour is that they had beaten Australia in the only game played in last year's three-match series, the other two being rained off.

The pre-match mindgames by both sides generated a fair bit of heat. If Yuvraj Singh sounded the battle-cry saying Aussies are ripe for picking, Australian coach Tim Nielsen hit back, insisting that the co-hosts will be under pressure playing at home.

In the run-up to the game, both teams had issues to ponder over.

Australia's 34-match unbeaten run in the World Cup ended last week when Pakistan beat them and the news that the Australian cricket establishment is divided over Ricky Ponting's continuance as skipper after the World Cup has not helped matters. Ponting, however, cleared the air saying he is not retiring and is looking forward to the "toughest challenge of his career as an Australian captain".

For India, too, it doesn't look all hunky dory. Their bowling has not been able to bowl top sides out and the middle and lower-order batsmen have failed to cash in on the good starts.

The availability of Virender Sehwag, who sat out the last match with a troublesome knee, is still unsure.

A decision on Sehwag's fitness will be taken Thursday morning, said captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "We will take a call tonight or tomorrow morning."

Overall, Australia have an impressive record against India in the World Cup. They have won their last five games against Australia -- one each in 1992, 1996, 1999 and twice in 2003, including the battering they gave the Indians in the final.

Ponting knows India will be tough to beat at home and said his boys will be treating the tie as a "mini grand final". He believes his pace battery led by Brett Lee has the ability to stop the Indian top-order.

"I know that we will be facing some 30 overs of spin bowling, but the Indians will also face some 30 overs of genuine fast bowling. Two contrasting ways to look at it, but they are the strengths of the two sides," Ponting said.

"I think if our fast bowlers bowl well against their batsmen, we have a good chance."

The Australian skipper, however, warned his teammates not to take India's pace spearhead Zaheer Khan lightly.

"We had a close look at him. After a short opening spell, he has been held back until the 26th over when the ball gets old and starts reversing. And he has got the wickets when the batsmen went after him in the later stages of the game," said Ponting.

India's top order batting has come good despite the inexplicable middle-order collapse.

Tendulkar and Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh have set the platform for the middle-order to dominate. Powerplay has been India's major problem. Yuvraj, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli have shown their individual brilliance, but it is time the Indians put up a collective performance with the bat.

All eyes will be on Tendulkar as fans are eagerly waiting for him to get his 100th international century.

Ponting has other plans for Tendulkar.

"It is an amazing record. But we have to make sure that he doesn't get a hundred and I am sure he is also working how to get to the feat," said Ponting.

Ponting, who is going through a rough patch, will try to draw inspiration from the 2003 final, when he blasted a majestic 140 not out from 121 balls. Statistics also show that Australia have won 24 of 29 ODIs when Ponting hits a century.

Ponting has watched videos of the special knock at least four to five times and said it has given him the much-needed confidence coming into this game. The stage is set for him to strike form, after all Thursday's game could be the last duel between the two greats in a World Cup.

Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, R. Ashwin, Ashish Nehra.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Cameron White, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Shaun Tait, Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine, David Hussey, John Hastings

Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Ian Gould (England)
Third umpire: Richard Kettleborough (England)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)






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Picture of the Day

President of India Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressing at the inauguration of the National Festival of Tribal Dances, ‘PRAKRITI’, in New Delhi on March 16, 2011. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture, Kum. Selja, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mahadev S. Khandela are also seen.

(Photo: Mukesh Kumar)



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