India were never expected to make the semi-final. Everyone (including me) had written then off before the tournament had even started. A young in-experienced team without a coach and a new captain didn’t exactly seem like the team that could make it very far in the tournament. But they did – and now they face the pre-tournament favourite Australia in the semi final.
It would be fair to say that they are still the favourites. Matty Hayden has been the top scorer in this tournament with 3 fifties in five innings. Stuart Clark has been the best bowler on display so far taking 12 wickets and having a phenomenal (for a T20 tournament) economy rate of 5.30. The openers have also put on two 100+ partnerships in the tournament and the pitch at Durban is pace friendly, which would suit the Aussies well. Even without Ponting and Shane Watson (who is turning out to be Australia’s equivalent to Munaf Patel in terms of injury), they are a formidable side.
So, is it impossible to beat them? The answer is No! They have already lost twice in the tournament – once to Pakistan and once to Zimbabwe. To take out Australia, you first have to make the early break throughs and get rid of the openers. The Aussie middle order remains a bit untested in the tournament so far and we haven’t seen the big hits from the likes of Symonds (and that could very well be because Hayden and Gilchrist have been finishing the job before it gets to them). In the bowling department, the fifth bowling option of Symonds/Clarke/Hodge is a weak link that should be exploited. The crowd support for India will also be strong at Durban and hopefully India can find some inspiration from that.
The Indian team is very likely to be the same one that beat England. Even if India loses the game tonight, Indian fans should still be happy with the way the boys have played in the tournament so far. Remember this is a team without their top 5 players – Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Kumble.
Good luck, India…