Mirpur: On a roll after completing a hat-trick of victories, title contenders India would look to continue with their winning ways in the ongoing ICC World T20 when they meet a struggling Australian team in their last group league encounter here on Sunday.
Having registered comprehensive wins against Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh in three successive matches to qualify for the semi-finals, the confidence of the team is at an all-time high as they face George Bailey`s Australia which has not done justice to their immense potential.
With back-to-back defeats against Pakistan and West Indies, the Australian team are all but out of the competition with a faint mathematical possibility that has kept them afloat and interested.
But for that to happen, George Bailey and his team first need to beat India by a comprehensive margin which looks a distant reality considering the current form of the two teams. While India`s campaign has gone from strength to strength with a solid all-round show in all the matches, Australia have struggled to maintain the momentum during the key stages of the game which is all the more important in a short format like the Twenty20.
For India, the key has been their spinners, who have done a tremendous job. While left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja has been a bit on the expensive side despite taking wickets, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and leg-spinner Amit Mishra have been pictures of consistency so far in the tournament.
Ashwin should be lauded for the manner in which he has bowled in the Powerplay overs often seizing the initiative for his team while Mishra has been fantastic for India at the back end with his clever variations. They have been assigned different roles by their captain and both have so far stood tall to the expectations of their leader.
Ashwin has hardly given any runs to the top-order in the Powerplay overs operating from round the wicket to the right-handers cramping them for room. Although Ashwin has taken only three wickets in three matches, an economy rate of 5.16 over 12 overs is something that any captain would be proud of. He has had the best economy rate among the slow bowlers.
Mishra, on the other hand, has bamboozled the batsmen with his guile. His googly has not been read well by most of the batsmen while he has used the flight to deceive the batsmen in the air. The classical leg-breaks have also got him wickets as the seven scalps in three matches with a highly impressive economy rate of 5.50 tells the story.
Dhoni`s captaincy in the tournament is like a breath of fresh air for the manner in which he has handled his bowling attack knowing its strengths and limitations. Mohammed Shami with an economy rate of close to 9 has not performed upto his potential but the helpful conditions with a bit of lateral movement off the pitch has made Bhuvneshwar Kumar a handful for the opposition batsmen.
He has bowled nine overs in three matches with an economy rate of only 5 runs per over. His figures of 3-0-3-0 against West Indies were phenomenal as it laid the foundation for an easy victory. Dhoni gave a very practical insight as to why the bowling attack has done so well in the tournament. "If you look at our bowling, we have not done well on the pitches suited for batting. I mean pitches which does not support the spinners. That means our part-timers have struggled to give us those few overs apart from Raina, who has done well in the sub-continent. That`s where we have struggled. If there`s not much lateral movement, our bowlers bowl at the `right pace` for the batsmen to hit," Dhoni said.
"The bowlers, who bowl quick are not bowling in the same areas. Definitely we have got potential when it comes to sheer fast bowling. Varun is someone who can bowl quick. Umesh is also someone who can bowl at 140-145 but they are still finding their line and length which may take a bit of time.
"Once they (Varun and Umesh) go back to their domestic season, they can get away bowling those back of the length deliveries. In international circuit, it does not really happen," he explained. Talking about the spinners, Dhoni said: "In this tournament, there is a bit of purchase for the spinners and we are playing with three spinners. Even part-timers are useful. When the conditions favour us, our bowlers become very exciting (to look at) and make most out of it. But where we have struggled is batting-friendly pitches."
India`s batting line-up too has not been far behind as they complemented the bowlers quite well. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, with two half-centuries each have scored 147 and 142 respectively.
Such has been their grip on the situation that the next highest scorer in the team is Suresh Raina with 36 runs, who did not even get a chance to have a hit in the last game and scored the winning runs in the match prior to that. Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh`s failure has been overshadowed by Rohit and Virat`s performance.
Skipper Dhoni got some batting time yesterday and would now like that the whole batting line-up is tested by the likes of Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner.
"Jadeja and Ashwin have not yet got a chance to bat in the matches. We will give them priority in the net session sending them earlier against fresh bowlers. The best part about our batting line-up is the fair mix of left and right-handers (four left-handers and four right-handers in the top-eight)."
For Australia, their death bowling has been a problem and among the batsmen, only Glenn Maxwell has shown his true potential with scores of 73 and 45 in the two matches. Brad Hodge has also been effective but the failure of David Warner and Shane Watson in successive matches, has hurt their campaign a lot. Also the inability of their pacers to hit the right length has been a factor as Umar Akmal, Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy have shown it with a lot of vigour.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny.
Australia: George Bailey (captain), Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hodge, Nathan Coultier-Nile, Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger, James Faulkner, Brad Hogg, James Muirhead, Cameron White, Dan Christian.