In-form India vs wounded Australia: Stage set for battle royal

India and Australia
India and Australia (PC: X)

The Indian dressing room had a special guest after their match against Bangladesh on Saturday. Sir Vivian Richards was invited to present the best fielder’s medal and he handed it over to Suryakumar Yadav. The great man embraced Rishabh Pant, called him a “pocket rocket” and gave a short speech. “The way you are playing your cricket man, love it, enjoying it,” said the West Indies batting legend.

India’s brand of cricket has wowed experts and fans alike and the team is thriving on consistency. Over the last three World Cups (50-over and T20), India have won 19 out of 22 matches. From that perspective, they need an implosion against Australia to jeopardise their chances of reaching the semi-finals of the ongoing T20 World Cup.

At the moment, they are sitting pretty with four points from two Super Eights matches, with a net run-rate of 2.425. On Monday, they will play against Australia in Gros Islet, St Lucia, and things can get uncertain only if they lose by 41 runs or more. And even then, Afghanistan will have to beat Bangladesh by at least 83 runs to knock India out. It’s an improbable scenario, and Rohit Sharma and his side can start thinking about their semi-final in Guyana.

One of the biggest strengths of this Indian team is that they have the players for all conditions. They are playing ‘total cricket’, with everyone contributing. For the fans, the Australia game is an opportunity to avenge the defeat of last year’s World Cup final, but the team doesn’t think that way. For them, it’s another game and they would like to keep the momentum going. “We know what is expected of us, and what we need to do and how we need to play as well,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation after the game against Bangladesh. “All eight batters need to play their role, whatever it is.”

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Team India vs Bangladesh
Team India vs Bangladesh (PC: Debasis Sen)

For Australia, however, this is a win-or-bust game. They have complicated matters by losing to Afghanistan and a response is due. The important thing would be to put the Afghanistan defeat out of their system and regroup quickly. And they are good at doing that. Even after the loss against Afghanistan, the team’s body language was positive and skipper Mitchell Marsh spoke about winning against India. “First and foremost, it becomes clear for us. We need to win and no better team to do it against,” he told the host broadcaster. Given Australia’s better net run-rate — 0.223 vis-à-vis Afghanistan’s -0.650 — a simple win against India should do the job for them.

India have settled into a perfect combination and they will go in unchanged for their final Group 1 Super Eights fixture. Australia dropped Mitchell Starc and brought in left-arm spinner Ashton Agar against Afghanistan, which according to Marsh, was purely “based on the conditions”. Starc, in all likelihood, will return for the India match. Big games call for big players.

The pitch at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet tends to play slow as the match progresses. In the previous game at this venue, South Africa had posted 163/6 batting first. England had it under control during the majority of their chase, until they threw it away in the last couple of overs. Once again, batting first could be a better option.

This is the battle royal, the biggest rivalry in cricket across formats. Topping the group will give India an added advantage, as the semi-final in Guyana doesn’t have a reserve day and the team that has topped their group will qualify for the final in case of a washout. For India, this is also an opportunity to push their biggest rival on the brink, for if Australia lose and Afghanistan win against Bangladesh, the Aussies would be eliminated.

For the men from Down Under, it’s about survival.

Australia in ICC T20 WC 2024
Australia in ICC T20 WC 2024 (PC: X)

Match details

June 24, Gros Islet, 8 pm IST


India (possible): Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav.

Australia (possible): Travis Head, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Tim David, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.

Also Read: ‘Revenge match’ or not, Australia are now India’s biggest cricket rivals