Opponents no longer in awe of once-invincible Australians

Yet, the Goa match is important. It’s a window of opportunity for every single youngster in the two sides. India will be worried about how they lost the plot  in the final five overs in the field. Australia are scratching their heads at the canter with which the young Indians prevailed in Vizag. So, the opportunity beckons in Goa.

No matter how India do in this game, or in the five one-dayers against New Zealand, they would still not be sure of their bowling. History tells us that India’s best shows on the world stage have been on account of their bowlers. The Madans, Sandhus and Binnys in 1983, not to forget India’s greatest one-day player. The Binnys, Chetans and Sivas in the 1985 Benson and Hedges or the Srinaths and the Zaheers in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa -- all were stellar on the world stage.

No such optimism now. But give it six months, and you could have three names there. Ashwin, for sure.

Australia have a reputation to defend. They have won a hat-trick of World Cup wins. Even in sluggish conditions in the West Indies, they were a handful, but not anymore. The invincibility of yesteryear is long gone. That intimidating factor is history, at least when it comes to India -- not just the cricketers but most of the billion-plus population.
But then, their bowling was manned by the likes of Warne and McGrath, and the batsman too were very good. No such brimming of confidence now.

This makes the World Cup, in my opinion, one of the most open fields ever. Every side is beatable and there is no escaping that fact. Thus, before the curtain goes up, last-minute preparations are at a feverish pitch.

That’s why the Goa game is important. That’s why it would be a shame if rain intervenes. Both sides would look to take something out of the final game. India are a step away from a clean sweep. Can you imagine an Aussie leaving the shores of a country firing a blank? Australia have an opportunity to thump their chests for their home fans, especially with the Poms watching.

 The build-up for both teams ahead is sketchy. India and Australia play in conditions which are completely at variance with the sub-continent’s situation. India travel to South Africa; Australia meet England in the Ashes, and both conditions would be alien to the sub-continent.

The mix-n-match policy is going to start in earnest from now on.

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