India keen to sustain rhythm

India keen to sustain rhythm

Australia need to muster victory against Dhoni & Co to remain in contention

India keen to sustain rhythm

That results in Twenty20 often fly in the face of predictions has been established by the performances of India and Australia so far in this World T20.

Enjoying one of their winningest runs in a long time – from regaining Ashes to clinching the ODI and T20 series against England at home to beating South Africa in Tests and T20s in away series – before setting their feet here, Australia were one of the serious contenders to clinch the one title that has been missing from their trophy cabinet. Two matches into Group 2, their prospects of qualifying for the semifinals look as bright as Bangladesh registering a win against a top Test-playing country.

Ironically, whether Australia stay in the tournament or not will depend on which way the Bangladesh-Pakistan match goes. Australia will have to win their Sunday’s third match against India, who are already in the knockouts after three wins in as many matches, to keep alive their slim hopes of advancing further in the event.

But that win will count for little if Bangladesh, who surprise you by plumbing further depths every time you think they have hit the nadir, crash to their third defeat in Sunday’s opening clash. A win for Pakistan means their last group encounter against West Indies will be a direct shootout for a last-four spot.  

Unlike the Aussies, India flew into Bangladesh on the back of a prolonged stretch of defeats spread over three countries and all in different continents. Even taking into consideration the unpredictable nature of T20, India weren’t the strongest favourites to become the first repeat champions.

They aren’t yet but few will be surprised if Dhoni lifts his fourth ICC trophy on the night of April 6. The rub of the green no doubt has gone India’s way but to credit their place in the semifinals to luck alone would grossly undermine their spirited effort in the face some critical issues, both on and off the field, that threatened to derail their campaign.

Cricketing-wise they weren’t in the best of shapes. There weren’t many concerns with regard to batting, barring the returning duo of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, but it’s the bowling unit that has surprised by setting up all three wins. Of course, Dhoni has won the toss all three times, helping him insert opposition on pitches offering turn.

No praise can be too high for the way the Indian bowlers, especially spinners, have performed limiting oppositions to totals below 140. The batsmen have accomplished the chases with aplomb. Virat Kohli -- whose sequence of scores reads 74 n.o. (in warm-up tie against England), 36 n.o., 54 and 57 n.o. -- has been in supreme touch and his assured presence in the middle has a calming influence in the dressing room.

Rohit Sharma has been improving with every outing while Suresh Raina has brought robustness to the middle-order. If anything, it’s the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Shikhar Dhawan that have been a bit shaky. That, however, will not bother Dhoni too much now. Yuvraj and Jadeja may be promoted in the order to get into some sort of rhythm against Australia before the bigger tests.

Should he win the toss, Dhoni will not hesitate to put Australia into bat but containing the likes of David Warner, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell will be a challenge unlike any.

Hurting from two close defeats in as many high-scoring games, Australia will come hard at India.

The loss against West Indies on Friday evening would have particularly caused them a lot of heart burn. Notwithstanding the respective fortunes of the two sides in this tournament, Australia will pose India the biggest challenge yet. A defeat will have little bearing on India’s immediate prospects but another win will lift their confidence sky high.

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