Dramatic, controversial, thrilling — the storied contests between India and Australia has arguably turned out to be cricket’s biggest rivalry over the past couple of decades. A little more than two months ago, the Pat Cummins-led Australian team silenced a humongous home crowd at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad by taking home the ICC World Cup trophy (ODI).
As the Indian Under-19 team braces to take on the Australian Under-19 side in the summit clash of the Under-19 World Cup in Benoni, a few fans are already whispering that it is time to exact ‘revenge’. Of course, the cricketers are professionals and they wouldn’t have revenge on their minds. But such conversations give you an idea about the magnitude of the rivalry between the two cricketing nations.
The Indian Under-19 side did suffer a setback in the Under-19 Asia Cup, but they have been on an unbeaten run in the ongoing World Cup. In the Under-19 World Cup semi-final against South Africa, one discovered there is a tough exterior beneath the calm demeanour of Uday Saharan, the skipper, and Sachin Dhas.
At 32 for 4, South Africa looked all set to seal a spot in the final, only for Dhas and Saharan to string together a game-breaking stand of 171. That come-from-behind victory would have boosted the confidence of the young guns even further. The Indian team isn’t just about Dhas and Saharan. Musheer Khan, who seems to have based his game on both his brother and Suryakumar Yadav, is currently the highest run-getter in the tournament. Saumy Pandey, who has drawn some comparisons with R Jadeja, is presently the third highest wicket-taker in the competition. Raj Limbani and Naman Tiwari will spearhead the pace attack.
That is about the Indian team in brief. But what about their rivals? Barring an abandoned game against the West Indies, Australia, too, have remained undefeated in the tournament. Moreover, the tense one-wicket victory over Pakistan in the semi-final would have given them immense self-belief.
Tom Straker, who seems to have a bit of Jason Gillespie in his bowling, bagged a six-for in the semis. He bowls a heavy ball and can also go full and straight. Callum Vidler is an exciting prospect as he generates late swing at decent clicks. Vidler also has a good short ball. Mahli Beardman also gets nifty movement at pace. Harry Dixon, who has modelled his game on David Warner, will be the fulcrum of the batting unit. Hugh Weibgen, the Australian captain, has also been among the runs. Meanwhile, Oliver Peake comes across as an industrious player in the middle-order.
Expected conditions: The track in Benoni has offered enough spongy bounce and movement for the pace bowlers. So, the bowlers are all set to have a say with the new ball. A spell of rain or two could play a bit of spoilsport through the course of the day.
What the captains said:
“As we approach the World Cup final, we carry the dreams of a billion hearts on our shoulders. Our journey has been a testament to our hard work, unity, and love for the game. In this final battle, we aim to create a legacy that inspires the next generation. It’s not just a game; it’s a chance to etch our names in history,” said Saharan, the India captain.
“We don’t mind being the underdogs against India. We are not the favourites, that is alright. We like being the underdogs. Being in those pressure situations will help us in the final,” said Hugh Weibgen.