Pakistan may well have lost the quarterfinals to Australia on Friday, but it revealed a few tricks for the Indians to peg back the Aussies. Now, it remains to be seen if the Men in Blue can work out those clues and crack it on Thursday, when they take on the Men in Yellow at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
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Here are 10 learnings for India from the Pakistan-Australia game:
1. Pakistan’s record (played: 51, lost: 33, won: 16, tied: 1, no result: 1) against Australia in their home soil, was dismal before the quarterfinals. The record did not matter when the two teams took to field on Friday. It was a brand new day, and a brand new game. The team that played better cricket won. India’s record (played: 14, lost: 12, won:1, NR:1) is poorer, with their loan win against the Aussies on this ground coming way back in the 2007-2008 Commonwealth Bank Series. It was Tendulkar then who had won India the game with a century. In this tournament, all five of India’s top-order batsmen are in great knick and have each scored a ton in the previous games. The semifinal can be the best stage for India to better the record with a win so special that it can erase all the previous defeats; including the terrible summer they have had Down Under in the last few months.
2. Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and chose to bat. So should skipper Dhoni. India shouldn’t fret much even if the toss doesn’t go their way. Unlike Pakistan, Dhoni’s bowling line-up has a superior record of bowling out the opposition every time in this world cup.
3. In their quarterfinals, as many as eight Pakistan batsman reached double figures, but none scored a fifty. There lies a big lesson for India’s top-order batsmen. The brief: Stitch together big partnerships to put the Aussies under pressure.
4. Every game that involves Australia, involves the mental game. They are the world’s best ODI team and are known to be the best to keep nerves. But nothing is permanent in this game of glorious uncertainties. In the past, whenever a team has breached the Australian fort of mental nerves, the Kangaroos have faltered. Pakistan nearly breached it on Friday and the World No. 1’s frailty along the edges showed up for a while on that day. India needs to capitalise on that frailty. Here, mere breaching the fort wall will not be enough, a flag has to be planted on the turret. This semifinal, unlike the Friday game, will be a battle of nerves and temperament, not talents. Both teams have plenty of match-winners. But, the team that makes lesser mistakes will go through to meet the Kiwis in the final.
5. Cricket generations to come will talk about Wahab Riaz’s spell in the Friday game. Riaz peppered Watson with bouncers directed at his head and chest; Watson ducked and fended awkwardly. The Australian batsman scored only four times off Wahab in that spell – one was the dropped by Rahat Ali and the other flew off the shoulder of the bat short of third man. The game at that moment was wonderfully set up. India’s Umesh Yadav and company needs to replicate that spell as many times if they can.
6. In the Pakistan game, Australia lost early wickets yet got away with it giving another vital clue. Letting Australia off the hook in the middle overs will be like a sin for the Indian bowlers.
7. The Indians have been in Australia for more than three months now, and must have cracked the hullabaloo around Australian sledging. The Indian contingent have been there so long that may well be speaking Australian themselves. But, on the field, what Indian players can pick from the Pakistan game was the way Wahab Riaz gave it back – with the blow of a kiss.
8. Unlike Pakistan, India need to pouch all catches, especially the dollies. If Pakistan couldn’t catch, India has shown throughout the competition that it can. Shoddy fielding by Pakistan let loose the stranglehold the pace bowlers created. Rahat Ali’s bloopers, both Watson and Maxwell were dropped by him, if overturned could have translated to win for the Men in Green.
9. Wahab Riaz’s spell was not backed up by the support bowlers in the Pakistan game. Once Sohail Khan came on after that spell, he was immediately taken to the cleaners, and the runs began to flow. The lesson for Indian bowlers there: Hunt in packs to maintain constant pressure.
10. Mitchell Starc’s spell will be crucial. He has been the best bowler in the tournament, and has to be tackled like Shane Watson did against Riaz. Watson wobbled, but did not fall, and was there at the end to score the winning runs.