Sunday, March 20, 2011

QUARTER FINALS PROBABILITIES - INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

Pakistan bowled exceptionally well to lay the foundation of their win over Australia at Colombo, ending Australia 34-match winning streak in World Cup matches. For the second match in a row, Australia (and Ricky Ponting) was confronted with the fact that their bowling attack can come undone quite easily when put under pressure. Brett Lee performed like a big-hearted champion that he is, but that's it... can't say anything more about the Australian bowling attack! It might have a brilliant day, or a disastrous day! Three consecutive brilliant days look difficult to me from hereon.

With this win, Pakistan top Group A. The standings of the Quarter finalists from Group A are:


1. Pakistan - 10 points
2. Sri Lanka - 9 points
3. Australia - 9 points
4. New Zealand - 8 points

Since we know South Africa is the Group B topper, one Quarterfinal has been fixed - South Africa v. New Zealand at Mirpur, Dhaka on either 23rd March or 25th March. I suspect it will be the 23rd March for them.

From an Indian perspective, a win against the West Indies will see them in the 2nd place, a loss will see them in the 3rd place and a heavy loss will see them in the 4th place (example - if West Indies bat first, score 250, and bowl India out for 92, India will have NRR lower than that of England and will be placed 4th).

So from an Indian point of view, it is possible that we might play any one of Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Quarter Finals, though Australia is the most likely one and Pakistan is the most unlikely one. Lets look at each of the possible fixtures in detail:

(Note: We all know India's weaknesses very well, so I won't glean over them again as I look at the possible Quarter Finals fixtures below. I will concentrate of the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents.)

INDIA v. AUSTRALIA



If India win against West Indies (which we should), India will meet Australia in the 2nd quarter-final at Ahmedabad's Sardar Patel Stadium. It will be a tricky clash. Australia is a very strong team, but with their own set of weaknesses. Their pace bowling attack, on which they heavily rely, is quite combustible. With their pace, they will almost certainly target Sehwag and Gambhir with short stuff, but the former needs just a little bit of waywardness in line (very possible due to the presence of Tait and Johnson) while the latter will need just a little bit of patience to counter them.

Apart from the 30 overs of pace, Australia's bowling attack is not a lot to talk about. Watson is handy, but can be milked. Krejza can be attacking, but I would place my money on the Indian batsmen attacking him more and pulling it off well. Smith will also be facing genuinely good players of spin bowling for the first time.

In their batting, Watson is certain to get them off to a good start, but just as certain to not capitalise on that start. Haddin has been inconsistent and Ponting consistent in his failures. He will also have to face Harbhajan Singh, whose bowling becomes interesting every time the batsman facing him has a last name 'Ponting'. Clarke has been in decent form and plays spin well, while Michael Hussey is their best batsman of spin bowling. White is desperately out of form, and if David Hussey plays in his place, it will be his first bat in almost a month.

Australia played a match at Ahmedabad against Zimbabwe, where they scratched their way to a win and a damaged TV set. All in all, they are definitely beatable, but yet I am wary of them, simply because of the fight that they have in them. Not for nothing are they the top-ranked team in ODIs in the world even today!

But when I think of it differently, had Australia won today against Pakistan, India would have met them in the semi-finals at Mohali. I'd much rather have an India v. Australia game at Ahmedabad than Mohali, for Mohali is more likely to support their pace, despite the pitch there having slowed down over the years.

INDIA v. SRI LANKA

If India lose to West Indies (not too badly), then we will play Sri Lanka in the Quarter Finals. Sri Lanka is a very strong team when they play at home... but don't have a record to talk about when they play India in India. Despite the similarity in conditions, Sri Lanka somehow manages to create a fortress at home and look at sea in India.

A lot of people with whom I have conversed personally or on Twitter reckon that Sri Lanka will be a tough opposition, and India would be better off facing Australia. I don't know why... I still think Sri Lanka will not be much trouble.

Their batting is based around Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. The rest of it looks quite brittle. Their bowling trump card against India would be Malinga. I know Muralitharan is a legend, but Indian batsmen have the ability to face him out, milking him for a few. Where need arises, batsmen like Sehwag and Gambhir can attack him quite well. Having said all this, I also think that our openers will need to be careful against Kulasekara's first spell, especially if we bat under lights. He can nip the ball in to the pads, and Sehwag is prone to losing balance by playing across the line and get LBW.

India has beaten Sri Lanka a number of times in the recent past at home even with our several first choice players (mainly Sachin Tendulkar) absent. Now with Tendulkar in such a rich vein of form, I doubt we'll have a lot of trouble against them. The team should not be complacent facing them, but they will certainly be high on confidence if they have to face Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad.

INDIA v. PAKISTAN


The mother of all clashes! Indo-Pak World Cup clashes are stuff of folklore! Expect nothing different if this clash does happen!

If India lose heavily to West Indies, so much so that our NRR dips below England's, then we play Pakistan in the Quarter Finals. Honestly, in my opinion, this should be India's best Quarter Final fixture if it happens. I'll tell you the reasons why I'll be very comfortable with the prospect of India facing Pakistan in QFs -

A. India will be coming off a heavy defeat, and will be more motivated to turn the tide.

B. Pakistan will be coming off a very impressive win over Australia, and will be prone to complacency. We all know that they are a highly inconsistent team, and after a great performance against Australia, a shoddy one is round the corner.

C. Pakistan will play with the additional pressure of 4-0... the history books say that in the 4 Indo-Pak World Cup matches, India has won all 4!

D. While Umar Gul with the new ball will be a difficult prospect, Pakistan's bowling gameplan in this World Cup has relied heavily on Afridi's performance. Against India, it will be difficult for Afridi to perform, given how every batsman in India loves facing a spinner (not so much for Yuvraj Singh, but even he would prefer a leg spinner to an off spinner).

E. If this fixture does result, it may well be all about who handles the pressure better. India has a lot more experience in their ranks, and men who will not be flustered by the opposition.

However, since this clash is extremely unlikely to happen, I won't write anything more about it.

THE LAST WORD

Even though I feel Australia will be the trickiest opposition for the QFs, I still feel that India should go all out against the West Indies tomorrow and play for a win rather than a strategic loss. India needs to get some confidence in their system after the close loss to South Africa, and also need to find the right winning combination. However, even if we manage only a scratchy performance against the West Indies, I won't be too disappointed... I will just hope that all the scratchiness is out of the system and come the Quarter Finals, India will be ready to show a different side of the team!

7 comments:

Govind Raj said...

Great analysis Shridhar. If 'You' think India can win the Cup this time, they should not bother who will be the opponent. They anyhow have to win all the matches from here.

I was just hoping the Tigers will beat the Saffers. You know why ? India have come up well when they have been 'Forced' to qualify rather than qualify thanks to other teams getting knocked out.

So I am still not hopeful of an Indian win. India can't win if they continue to play Munaf Patel. It may be worth giving that one more chance to Sreesanth today.

Shridhar Jaju said...

Thank you, Govind! Sooner or later, you have to beat every opposition to win, no matter how difficult it may be!

I never expected Tigers to beat Saffa... a bit of a mismatch always in my mind (though I never imagined 70-odd all out)!

Anonymous said...

just one correction jaju, in place of quarter final u have written it as semi final!

Shridhar Jaju said...

My bad! Made the correction...

Siddharth said...

QF: IND VS AUS

SF: IND Vs PAK

K said...

Comprehensive analysis !! I hope that India can somehow overcome Australia and then its anyone's game in the semis !! Btw ..I have added you to my blogroll. Keep the posts coming...and lets hope that India wins!

Shridhar Jaju said...

Thank you, K! I have you on my blogroll as well. And yes, welcome to CRIC - SIS.

SAVE OUR TIGER!