As India take on Australia in the second quarter final in Ahmedabad on Thursday, one is not sure who to term as favourites. Traditionally, Australia hold the wood over their Asian opponents, but of late they haven’t been the same side that dominated world cricket for such a long duration of time. Even so, the Aussies would be confident going into the game against India although home conditions would even out the advantage to quite an extent. The SWOT analysis of the two teams would give us a better idea of how the game could pan out.
Strengths: The top order batting is undoubtedly India’s greatest strength. In Sachin Tendulkar, they have the best batsman in modern day cricket. Add to it the exploits of Virender Sehwag. If Sachin and Sehwag fire like they did against South Africa, India would be greatly advantaged. The good part is that both are among the runs and have looked exceedingly fluent during their stay at the crease. Yuvraj Singh’s return to form and consistency in the series also has been a great relief for the Indians. If anything, he is only playing with a greater sense of maturity. While his batting has been excellent, his left arm spinners have been more than an added bonus to the team. In fact they have even resulting in game changing moments. It has helped that Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir have also been among the runs, even though it has to be said that the latter has had an average tournament by his standards. Hopefully, he will come into his own against one of his favourite opponents – Australia.
Weaknesses: At the start of the tournament, the Indian batting line up was declared by many cricket pundits as the best in the tournament. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite turned out to be the case. While Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj have done the bulk of the scoring, the lower order has struggled miserably, particularly in the power play overs. On three occasions now, the lower order has collapsed without a semblance of resistance and two occasions it cost them badly. The likes of Yusuf Pathan, and Suresh Raina (whoever plays) have to show greater application for India to maintain momentum in the latter overs. And not least of all, M S Dhoni needs to score some runs. His batting has been on the constant decline ever since he has taken over the captaincy. To be fair to Dhoni, he hasn’t been the only Indian captain to suffer a slump since taking over as skipper. However, he still needs to lead from the front and come up with something inspirational for the team, if not with the bat then at least behind the stumps. It is about time for Dhoni to do something significant.
The other major weak point in the Indian team is, of course, their bowling. Zaheer Khan has been sensational, especially with the old ball. However, he has had little in the form of support. Harbhajan Singh has been off colour for most part of the tournament. Khan would want Singh to put up an improved performance and back him. Munaf Patel too, while he has done well, needs to bowl with a greater degree of consistency and accuracy. Having seen both Piyush Chawla and Ravichandran Ashwin, it is clear that the latter is a better bet and India would do well to continue with the off spinner else they would be further weakened in the bowling department. A lot will also depend on the amount of improvement they show on the field, if any.
Opposition: Australia are known to raise their game by notches in bigger clashes and, unless India manage to do the same, the tournament could be all over for them.
Threats: The pressure of playing at home would be immense on India. Although they are used to it, Australia would put additional pressure on India by going hard at the Indians with the mouth as well. They have already begun the war by Mitchell Johnson claiming that they would go hard at Sehwag – in the rib cage. How they handle this could go a long way in deciding the eventual result. It will be an intriguing battle nonetheless.
Strengths: The Aussies have a couple of genuine match winners in Brett Lee and Shane Watson. If both manage to perform to potential, Australia’s chances of victory would be augmented to a great extent. There are a couple of others too like Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke, who are possibly the most dangerous middle overs pair in limited overs cricket. India would have a tough task stopping the duo if they get their eyes in. While Hussey is adept at rotating the strike and going for the big hits towards the end, Clarke can pierce the gaps with precision and find the boundaries at will. The running between the wickets and fielding of the Australians is also much more superior compared to the Indians, which gives them a distinct advantage.
Weaknesses: Unlike yesteryears, there are indeed a couple of weaknesses in the present Australian team. The biggest problem for them is that skipper Ricky Ponting has not been among the runs at all. Of course he has got the backing of the team, but he will need to deliver against India else the axe might well fall on him. There are definite question marks over the performance of a few others too. Cameron White, who has turned into a big hitting specialist, hasn’t quite been performing up to expectations of late. And he hasn’t done much in this World Cup as well. Like Ponting the team management is backing him as well to turn things around. Time is running out though. Further, in Shaun Tait, they are always playing with a double edged sword. No one can predict what he will dish out against India. The spin department also is a concern as they don’t have a quality spinner although Jason Krejza has done a decent job.
Opposition: India would be playing at home and the crowd might just inspire the Indians onto greater things. It has been proved that this Aussie team doesn’t have the same mental aptitude as some of their previous teams.
Threats: The Aussies would be going all out at India without doubt, but an over aggressive approach could well backfire on them as this Indian side has the talent to thwart them.
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