NEW DELHI: Australian captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first against India in their World Cup quarterfinal match at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera.
India will have to tighten their game, and the batting in particular, if they harbour any hopes of avenging their 2003 final loss to the defending champions.
The one area the four-time champions score over the 1983 champions is in the fielding – the Aussies can convert ones into twos and cutoff the possibilities of the Indians taking a second run. It is one for the throw when Australia are batting and none when they are fielding.
The one big psychological factor in India’s favour is that they had beaten Australia in the only game played in last year’s three-match series, the other two being rained off.
Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the World Cup ended last week when Pakistan beat them and the news that the Australian cricket establishment is divided over Ricky Ponting’s continuance as skipper after the World Cup has not helped matters. Ponting, however, cleared the air saying he is not retiring and is looking forward to the "toughest challenge of his career as an Australian captain".
For India, too, it doesn’t look all hunky dory. Their bowling has not been able to bowl top sides out and the middle and lower-order batsmen have failed to cash in on the good starts.
The availability of Virender Sehwag, who sat out the last match with a troublesome knee, is still unsure.
Overall, Australia have an impressive record against India in the World Cup. They have won their last five games against India – one each in 1992, 1996, 1999 and twice in 2003, including the battering they gave the Indians in the final.
Ponting knows India will be tough to beat at home and said his boys will be treating the tie as a "mini grand final". He believes his pace battery led by Brett Lee has the ability to stop the Indian top-order.
Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh have set the platform for the middle-order to dominate. Powerplay has been India’s major problem. Yuvraj, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli have shown their individual brilliance, but it is time the Indians put up a collective performance with the bat.
All eyes will be on Tendulkar as fans are eagerly waiting for him to get his 100th international century.
Teams (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin, Ashish Nehra.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Cameron White, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Shaun Tait, Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine, David Hussey, John Hastings. (Agencies)
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Ian Gould (England)
Third umpire: Richard Kettleborough (England)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle ( Sri Lanka)