Ahmedabad: Australia’s coach Tim Nielsen has said that his team were hoping to meet India in the final of the World Cup, and would be treating their quarter-final against the tournament co-hosts in Ahmedabad on Thursday as a “mini-grand final”.
He said he was aware the atmosphere at Motera would be electric, and his players were looking forward to that.
“The adrenaline will certainly be flowing and playing in front of their home crowd in Ahmedabad will be exciting and a challenge for us,” Nielsen said. “We’ve got no fear now; we know we’re in the knockout stage.
“It’s exciting … a mini-grand final in itself. If you came here and thought, ‘What would be the best result? It would be great to make the final against India’. Well, we’ve got our final against India in the next few days. I’m sure if we’re on our game, they won’t necessarily be looking forward to playing against us. That’s something in our favour.”
India have played Australia in 15 one-dayers at home in the last five years, and Australia have won nine of those matches. Both teams have lost a game each in the group stages of this World Cup, and though India will be hoping home advantage can buoy them to a victory, Nielsen warned it could also be a hindrance to them.
Nielsen said he remembered the pressure Australia faced when they played the World Cup at home in 1992, and said things would be no different for India. “It’s [playing at home] a huge factor for them. There’s some pressure there and if we can start the game well and maybe quieten the crowd that will play on the mind of the Indian team.”
The attention on India will also help lessen the hype that usually surrounds any Australian team at a World Cup. This time around, the defending champions are not the out-and-out favourites to win the tournament, and the end of their unbeaten World Cup streak, against Pakistan in Colombo, has further lessened the aura of the side. Nielsen looks at that as an advantage, saying all the pressure was on India.
”The media and the public scrutiny will also be so great that you’d expect India to have most of the pressure on them. They will be answering all the questions; there’ll be questions about the surface we play on, there’ll be questions about their line-up. It would be nice to think we can sneak under the radar a bit and just go about our preparation over the next few days and be as ready to go as we can be.”
India’s formidable batting line-up has shown a weakness in their last two games. In both matches, the top order set a solid base, only for the middle and lower order to collapse spectacularly. Against South Africa, in Nagpur, India lost their last 9 for 29, and then against West Indies, in Chennai, the collapse was 7 for 50. However, Nielsen said Australia could not risk letting India get off to a good start in the hope that wickets would fall later on, and would need to try to get early wickets.
“The importance of a quarter-final and the stature of a match will mean they [India’s batsmen] are switched on. But if we can make some early inroads into their batting – [Virender] Sehwag, [Sachin] Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and [Gautam] Gambhir have played really well for them – we’d like to think that would be a benefit for us.”
Australia’s own batting has had a few chinks, with Ricky Ponting and Cameron White both struggling for form, and the team crashing to 176 all out against Pakistan. Nielsen was not too concerned about the form of individual players, and said that as long as one of the top four batsmen got a big score, the team could kick on from that.
”We need to get a platform for our batting to expand and score quickly. The grounds are huge, the outfields lightning fast. If you can get in, then when the ball is changed after 34 overs you’ve really got an opportunity to score quickly.”
Australia have an impressive record against India in World Cup matches, having beaten them in seven of the nine counters, and will hope to continue that run on March 24.