Who will win the Australia-India clash?
In a clash of titans Thursday, old school meets new school when three-time defending World Cup champion Australia takes on India in a Cricket World Cup quarterfinal in Ahmedabad, India. Aussie-phile Peter Della Penna writes why history sides with the Green and Gold, and Indian fanatic Amar Shah puts his spin on why India's time is now.
Why Australia will win
Australia's 34-match unbeaten streak at World Cups may have come to an end, but more importantly, its streak of three straight World Cup titles is still intact. The Aussies are also 7-2 all time against India at the World Cup, including five straight wins. Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Brett Lee are true winners.
In recent years, Australia has owned India in India, winning nine of the past 15 ODIs played in the subcontinent between the two sides. Who has the record for the most wickets by an opposition bowler playing at India in ODIs? Australia's Mitchell Johnson, who has 24 wickets in 13 games and has been particularly handy at nipping a Virender Sehwag onslaught in the bud.
While India's batting lineup looks like the Harlem Globetrotters early in games, sooner or later it morphs into the Washington Generals against above average pace bowling. Three fast bowlers -- Tim Bresnan, Dale Steyn and Ravi Rampaul -- have notched five-wicket hauls against India so far in this World Cup. In addition to Johnson, Australia can call upon Lee and Shaun Tait to dish out some intimidating pace.
India's strategy this World Cup has been to try to bat the other team out of the game to cover for its glaring flaws elsewhere. Football teams can be good if they have solid offenses and defenses, but eventually bad special teams units come back to haunt them. The same is true regarding India's shoddy fielding, and outside of Zaheer Khan, its bowling attack has struggled to impose itself on the opposition. Australia delivers the goods in all three aspects of the game, which is why it's been a model of success in ODIs for the past decade.
People can compare the Aussies to the Patriots, the Yankees or Duke basketball. The bottom line is that Australia wins. India falls more in line with the Chicago Cubs, a bunch of lovable losers. Count on Australia to win Thursday.
Why India will win
If only Rex Ryan were India's cricket coach. On Thursday, India plays Australia in the ICC World Cup Cricket quarterfinals in Ahmedabad. It's a rivalry that's become this sport's version of the Jets and the Patriots.
Even if the Australians didn't comment about Indian batsman Virender Sehwag's footwork (he's been nursing a knee injury), there's been plenty of mouthing off going on between both teams. Australian coach Tim Nielsen said his team would silence the Indian crowd while Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh said the Aussies aren't as good as they used to be without the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Glen McGrath.
Australia, the most dominant team in cricket, winning the past three World Cups, has owned India in the past, including a 125-run drubbing in the 2003 final. But now karma comes a calling. For the first time, the Aussies look beatable. Their 34 World Cup match-winning streak was snapped by Pakistan on Saturday, and their captain, Ricky Ponting, is smashing televisions and losing his temper.
Momentum is on India's side. Not only does India have home-field advantage, it can't hurt knowing you have a billion strong cheering you on. India also possesses the best batting order in the tournament, its own desi version of Murderers Row.
Starting with the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman of all time, down to Singh, who's been putting up MVP-like numbers, including his first century against the West Indies, India can rip any bowling attack asunder.
On the other end, India's bowling has been subpar so far, but left-arm fast-bowler Zaheer Khan and spinner Harbhajan Singh will provide plenty of wickets from a favorable pitch.
India last won the World Cup in 1983, when it was led by a charismatic young captain named Kapil Dev. He led the team to an upset over reigning champ West Indies. Can't help but feel India has a tryst with destiny this year, too. It's time for the Australians to go the way of the Patriots. Tom Brady, meet Ricky Ponting.
Peter Della Penna is an American-born and raised cricket journalist who writes for ESPNcricinfo.com and DreamCricket.com. His work has also appeared in "The Wisden Cricketer" and "Wisden Cricketers" Almanack.
Amar Shah is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles. He's currently developing a romantic comedy screenplay set in the world of cricket. He can be reached at email@example.com or on on Twitter.
Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
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