The battle for semifinals begins from tomorrow

The battle for semifinals begins from tomorrow

The battle for semifinals begins from tomorrow

India's Suresh Raina trains ahead of a Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match with Australia in Winwards, Barbados. AP

India have been drawn along with West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia, who by far look the best equipped all-round team capable of claiming the coveted trophy.

England, who squeaked into the Super Eights following a washout against Ireland, will play South Africa, New Zealand and most likely Pakistan in the other cluster.

Defending champions Pakistan will hope that Australia will crush Bangladesh in their last group match so that they can enter the second round of the championship, which offers a winners purse of USD 8,00,000.

Six days into the championship, the wheat has been separated from the chaff.

The world's best eight teams will battle for supremacy here on, striving to make the semifinals, slated for May 13 and 14 at St Lucia. The final is scheduled for May 16 in the land of the legendary three Ws – Weekes, Walcott and Worrel.

India did magnificently well in the group games, trouncing debutants Afghanistan and South Africa by big margins but their biggest challenge begins now.

It is a do-or -die from now for Dhoni's men, who need to win two of their matches to ensure that they extend their stay in the enchantingly beautiful islands. India play an exotically talented Australia on May 7, and then run into Chris Gayle's West Indies on May 9. They need to win one of these two games, as they have the comfort of playing a relatively weaker opponent in Sri Lanka on July 11 in St Lucia.

Dhoni might have tried different combinations in the group matches, but he would have to have his best man on the park if he aspires to get the better off Australia and West Indies.

Forget their batting reserves, Australia's pace battery wears a mean and lethal look. Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson back their pace and verve with line and length. As such, it would be difficult to score off the foursome.

It would be critical that Gautam Gambhir, who had a hit at the nets yesterday, recovers completely from his fever-driven fatigue, accentuated by a stomach bug, which had forced him out of the game against South Africa.

If the classy left-hander fails to deliver, India's task would get more onerous in the crucial game. If India don't get over their first hurdle in Australia, the journey to the semifinals will become all the more difficult.

Despite the wealth of talent in their ranks, to beat West Indies in their own backyard will not be a walk in the park. Chris Gayle's Windies are a bunch of exciting cricketers who could turn the match on its head, if they gel as a team.

Though Sri Lanka made the finals in the 2009 edition the islanders have been struggling to get their combination right and haven't been in sublime form over the last few months. So they are not much of a bother.

But India would do well to conquer Australia and West Indies at the Kensington Oval, than wait for their final foray against the Lankans. If they succumb to title-hungry Australians and the West Indians, they could be on their way back to the Indian sub-continent.

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