India take on Australia at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on Sunday, exactly a year after they lost to the Kangaroos in the semifinals of the ICC World Cup 2015.
Tomorrow’s game is a virtual quarterfinal between the two teams, one of whom will join New Zealand from Group 2 and progress to the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 2016. India and Australia have enjoyed similar campaigns so far, losing to New Zealand and winning their respective fixtures against Pakistan and Bangladesh. The net run-rate of Australia (0.44) is better than India’s (-0.54), as the Men in Blue have not been able to make up for their huge, 47-run defeat in their opening fixture against the Blackcaps. With Australia beating Pakistan yesterday at the PCA Stadium, tomorrow’s game has become a knockout between these two giants of the game.
Ahead of such an important fixture, how do the two sides stack up against each other?
India v Australia
There is not a lot to choose between India and Australia ahead of tomorrow’s fixture. India came into the tournament as outright favourites in many people’s opinions, however, have looked jittery and rusty. Australia have done reasonably well up to this point. As aforementioned, their victories against Pakistan and Bangladesh were very similar as well: Mashrafe Mortaza’s side ran the duo really, really close, with India and Australia just edging it. The two teams’ wins against Pakistan were also extremely identical and relatively comfortable for T20 standards.
Earlier this year, Australia played India in a three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series at home and lost it by 0-3. That side, led by Aaron Finch, was bereft of David Warner and Steve Smith’s services for the final two games and Glenn Maxwell joined the squad only from the second game. And so, it was not a full-strength Australian side that India beat so convincingly, though we can take no credit away from MS Dhoni and company. Given that the Warner, Smith and Maxwell trio are a part of their country’s world T20 squad, you can expect Australia to play better than they did in the bilateral series in January.
Australia have had a very different batting order in their three games so far, with Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson opening the innings – in the first two against New Zealand and Bangladesh – and Smith, Warner and Maxwell slotting in at Nos. 3, 4 and 5. Khawaja’s form has been metronomic and a huge positive too, for the Aussies, who have yet to see the best of the Warners and Maxwells. Against Pakistan yesterday, Watson was moved down to No. 6 in the absence of Mitchell Marsh, and Aaron Finch got his first chance of the sixth edition of the T20 world cup.
You can say that S Smith’s side does not have a settled batting order, unlike India, who have not changed their playing XI for four straight games now, starting from the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh. However, India’s batting has yet to come to the party as well, with Virat Kohli being the only one who has looked confident and convincing. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are struggling for form and have seemed ambiguous about approaching the mandatory powerplay at the top of the innings. The first six overs for India have, therefore, failed to produce a lot of runs and, more importantly, seen wickets fall in clusters. India’s wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh were a result of great bowling performances, with their batting line-up contributing very little to the cause.
India’s batting = Australia’s batting, going by what the two batting units have served up so far.
When we look at India’s and Australia’s bowling attacks, India, you can say, have the better bowling arsenal. They have got two quality spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – to exploit the pitch conditions on offer. India’s fast bowling department looks a lot more lethal now, thanks to Jasprit Bumrah’s ability to bowl well at any stage of the innings. The conspcious aspect about Bumrah’s bowling has been his control and efficacy in delivering yorkers, making him hard to get away for opposition batsmen. One cannot discount the old horse in Ashish Nehra, who has bowled with great control and penetration since returning to the Indian side for the T20I series in Australia.
The Kangaroos, on the other hand, have brought a rookie in Adam Zampa with them, and the South Australian leg-spinner has done well in the games against Bangladesh and Pakistan, picking five wickets in his 8-over quota. He has not leaked runs either, and Australia would be hoping that the 23-year-old can continue his good bowling form against the Men in Blue. Maxwell has been utilised as the second spinner by Australia, who have preferred to play two seamers (Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile) and James Faulkner as the bowling all-rounder.
It will be interesting to see if the Mohali pitch assists spin bowling as much as most pitches in the tournament have. If it does, the balance could shift slightly in India’s favour because of the spinners – who also know exactly how to bowl in Indian conditions and on Indian pitches – they have at their disposal.
India’s bowling > Australia’s bowling. There can be very little debate about this.
India have yet to find their groove in the world T20 2016. Their batting has let them down and the bowlers have carried the team in the three games till now. The Mohali pitch, however, might just be the kind on which Indian batsmen come to their own, especially their stroke-makers in Rohit, Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh.
Australia’s batting has the ‘wow!’ factor to it, with Warner and Maxwell capable of pulverising any bowling attack on their day. The duo has not found its rhythm and Australia have yet to settle on a batting order. Their bowling is incongruous to Indian conditions and although New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan did not do much damage, they might find India’s batting as too strong – if Kohli and company find their touch.