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Excitement level reaches fever pitch as Chepauk braces to host clash of champs

Last updated on 07 Oct 2023 | 01:23 PM
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Excitement level reaches fever pitch as Chepauk braces to host clash of champs

The venue last hosted an India-Australia World Cup clash 36 years ago

If you’re one of the tournament favorites, is it better to start the World Cup off against a relatively ‘weaker’ team, or is it better to get the toughest game out of the way first?

It’s a proper dilemma indeed, for both scenarios come with their own advantages.

Come Sunday, however, both India and Australia have no option but to believe it’s better to get the toughest game out of the way as the two sides clash at the iconic MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. 

Chepauk hasn’t overseen an India-Australia World Cup clash this century but if Sunday’s clash proves to be even 50% as exciting as the last World Cup battle between these two teams in Chennai back in 1987, which the Kangaroos won by 1 run, we’re in for an absolute epic.

Two weeks ago, when these two sides met in a three-match bilateral series, it was Australia who were plagued by injuries but it’s India who are under the pump now, with Shubman Gill’s participation in jeopardy due to the opener contracting Dengue. 

Reports everywhere suggest that Gill will all but miss Sunday’s contest but India have opted to keep their cards close to their chest, with both Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid claiming that the 24-year-old is ‘in with a chance’ to play. 

India will start as very marginal favorites even if Gill is ruled out, purely due to being hosts, but the Aussies will be pretty confident of their chances, having triumphed over the Men in Blue at the very same venue seven months ago. 

Things to watch out for 

Ravichandran Ashwin’s potential homecoming

It’s been 11 years since Ravichandran Ashwin last played an ODI in Chennai but the veteran is all set for the grandest of all homecomings on Sunday. India have not announced their XI yet, but it is almost a certainty that Ashwin will feature against the Aussies, with the Men in Blue set to play three spinners.

Prior to the Australia series, there was a notion that Ashwin had made it back into the scheme of things only due to his reputation but the 37-year-old, across the two ODIs he played, proved his class and showed why he’d fit into the starting XI like a glove. He picked 4 wickets in the two games he played and pretty much single-handedly sealed the series for the side in Indore, where he returned figures of 3/41.

Ashwin knows the Chepauk wicket like the back of his hand but from an Indian perspective, the bigger deal is the mental edge he seems to possess against the Aussies. It was evident in the ODI series, where he toyed with the Australian batters despite not having played regular 50-over cricket for years. 

How Ashwin fares in his homecoming could very well end up deciding the fate of Sunday’s contest. 

Australia’s tendency to collapse (across phases and conditions)

Australia enter Sunday’s clash being 3-5 in their last eight ODIs and what stands out is that they’ve had a collapse in each of the eight matches at some point in their innings.

Some of the collapses you see above haven’t been fatal, and they’ve actually gone on to win the match, but even these collapses have stopped the side from maximizing good starts.

Teams get away with these kinds of lapses in bilaterals but will more often than not pay the price in a cut-throat competition like the World Cup, which is usually defined by fine margins. 

Australia will be aware of the same, and would be keen to weed out this recent tendency to lose clumps of wickets together. 

Glenn Maxwell vs Indian spinners: the big H2H

Glenn Maxwell has only batted twice in ODI cricket this year, but the Victorian could hold the key for Australia on Sunday, for he possesses a supreme record against the Indian spinners.

Combinedly against Jadeja, Ashwin and Kuldeep in ODIs, the right-hander has scored 323 runs at an average of 46.1 and SR of 132.4. He has in particular punished Kuldeep, against whom he boasts a strike rate of 152.4.

Australia would be encouraged by the fact that Maxwell looked in very good touch in the warm-up encounter against Pakistan, where he struck a quickfire 77. They’ll certainly be banking on him to do serious damage, and might even contemplate promoting him to nullify the threat of the Indian spinners.

It could spell trouble for India if they don’t see the back of Maxwell early. 

Ground Details 

Despite its reputation of being a spinner’s paradise, Chepauk hasn’t been too kind to the tweakers of late (last 5 ODIs). The pacers have averaged significantly lower and have also taken a higher percentage of wickets.

However, the last time these two sides clashed in Chennai, earlier this year, 11/18 non run-out wickets fell to spin. Kuldeep and Zampa, the two wrist-spinners, took 7 wickets between them in the contest.

Come Sunday, expect a good sporting wicket that’s not too high scoring and has something for everyone.

Tactical Insights

> Maxwell might have an impeccable record against the Indian spinners, but he has been undone — a lot — by short balls from pacers, in the past 4 years. Going short to him early, or pushing him back and then firing in the yorker — like Bumrah did in Rajkot — could be a way to tackle the Victorian. 

> India might very well consider introducing Ravindra Jadeja early if Mitch Marsh gets off to a flier, The right-hander has an incredible record against the three frontline Indian seamers in ODIs, striking at over 140 against everyone, but has a SR of just 72.6 in 84 balls against Jadeja. The left-arm spinner could potentially help break Marsh’s momentum should the Western Australian get off to a flyer.

Team News and Probable XI

India are sweating on the fitness of Gill, who is down with illness. Expect Ishan Kishan to open should Gill not recover in time. Plus, Ashwin is likely to slot in at No.8 ahead of Shardul Thakur.

India likely XI: Rohit Sharma (capt), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj

Australia’s only fitness concern is Marcus Stoinis, who Cummins revealed is ‘touch and go’ for Sunday. Australia likely won’t risk Stoinis, so expect Cam Green to get the nod.

Australia likely XI: David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa

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