Superpowers’ encounter at the SCG


India battles tide of history against dominant Australia

After five weeks of a slow-burning, lightly-stewing tournament, India’s World Cup has come to a fierce boil. All its efforts, all its ambitions, all its grand ideas now face their tallest hurdle: Australia in the semifinals at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Standing in India’s way is not just a powerful, sometimes-intimidating home team that has continually come out on top in recent meetings, but the weight of history. For all the talk about India feeling comfortable in Sydney, it has won but one ODI and one Test match against Australia here, so dominant has the host been.

Much of this opinion has stemmed from the perception that the pitch here is more hospitable to spin bowlers than in any other ground in the country. Last week, South Africa’s spinners took seven wickets against Sri Lanka during their quarterfinal at this venue, but it is not as if the ball was turning square.

It would be a surprise if the hotly-pursued curator, Tom Parker, who has been off limits to the media, produced a surface on which the ball turned much.

At any rate, what is of greater importance is which side has the better spin bowlers, and India is clearly ahead in this regard.

Warne’s tips

Shane Warne, the highest wicket-taker in Test matches at the SCG, paid the Australian camp a visit on Wednesday. He bowled in the nets and was engaged in discussion with Xavier Doherty, the team’s only full-time spinner. Whether Australia will risk Doherty remains to be seen; he has played one match in the tournament, against Sri Lanka, when he leaked 60 from seven overs.

India’s batsmen will not be worried one iota about Doherty; who they will be concerned by is Mitchell Starc. The left-arm fast bowler took six for 43 against India not too long ago in the triangular series. A number of batsmen have found him and his torpedoed yorkers impossible to handle at the World Cup; he carries a bigger threat than Mitchell Johnson, who has had a disappointing tournament so far, with 10 wickets at an economy rate of 5.52.

Beyond Starc, though, Australia’s bowling does not seem hugely potent; no one except for him and Johnson has entered double figures in the wickets column. India, in contrast, has four such bowlers, who have helped dismiss all seven previous opponents.

Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, and Mohit Sharma will have watched how Wahab Riaz bullied Australia. They have used the short ball well so far although they don’t have the advantages a left-armer does.

More than one Australian player has publicly spoken of the unsuccessful summer weighing on Indian minds. But those were statements made more in hope than in firm belief. They are aware that this is a bristling, rejuvenated India, bouncing after an unbeaten World Cup campaign. Both teams know each other well; as such there is no advantage to one side.

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