At the start of the tournament, this fixture would have been circled in red on the calendar — powerful, frightening Australia versus confident, sub-continental India. Ten days into the ICC World T20, it has all the status of a dead rubber. Two close losses — one an ambush, the other a punch-up — have sent George Bailey’s men rolling in the direction of the exit. By the time Australia takes the field at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium here on Sunday, it could formally be out of the competition.
Only a win for Bangladesh over Pakistan in the afternoon game — which seems about as improbable as a hassle-free ride in Dhaka traffic — will keep the window open mathematically.
Australia will ponder mournfully over both its Group 2 defeats. That it racked up scores of 175 and 178 and lost may suggest that the bowling has been inadequate — and it has — but that is only half the story. With the exception of Glenn Maxwell and, to some extent, Aaron Finch, the powerhouse the batting group was made out to be has been a dud.
David Warner and Shane Watson have failed to come to life while Bailey, who had a wonderful 2013 in ODIs, has not been able to do much. Mitchell Johnson’s absence has definitely robbed the bowling of quality.
Such is the nature of the format and the tournament that before teams can catch a breath, their fortunes have been written.
Australia has played both its games in the afternoon slot when the surface has been better for batsmen, which should explain the high scores.
Sunday’s match will be its first time fully under lights here; the nature of the pitch in the evening means fielding two spinners is not out of the question.
It remains to be seen if the likes of Cameron White and Dan Christian, who have played no part, will get a chance.No worries for India
India will hardly be worried about these things. A semifinal berth has been booked and there is little to do but sharpen skills now.
This could be seen as an opportunity to try any of Varun Aaron, Mohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane or Stuart Binny, who have been warming the bench, but M.S. Dhoni will be wary of disrupting the side’s momentum.
There is at least a three-day gap before the semifinals, so rest will not be a factor either. There could be some reshuffling of the order, though, just like Dhoni’s promotion of himself against Bangladesh.
India has tried different bowlers in the closing stages of the innings — Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja have all been deployed in the last three overs — with varying degrees of success. Sunday will allow one last trial before the semifinals.
The teams ought to know each other well, from their long limited-overs series in India in October. Jadeja and Ashwin were among India’s better bowlers, going at under six an over and finishing first and second on the wicket-taking charts.
The two and Mishra should be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of bowling on Sunday, for Australia’s top five batsmen have succumbed to spin in both their matches.
Victory will send India thundering into the last four. Defeat will hurt, but it cannot stand in the way of progress.
The teams (from):Australia: George Bailey (capt.), Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White, and Doug Bollinger.
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma, and Varun Aaron.