Himanshu Dubey

India and Australia have become fierce rivals over the past few years. Bhajji-Symonds, Ponting-Zaheer had spiced up the contest to a great extent in the past and the quarter final game on Thursday has the potential to take the brewing rivalry into something big and massive.

The last time these two teams met in a World Cup game, Australia were a different side, basking in the glory of their unchallenged supremacy in the cricketing arena, while India were going through a rebuilding phase under Saurav Ganguly, who had infused a new lease of life into the team.

It was the summit clash of 2003 World Cup at Wanderers, Johannesburg and Australia effortlessly went past the young Indian side, literally making them realize how misfit the opponent they were and the difference between the two sides was too much.

Eight years have gone by and India-Australia have swapped positions. Aussie might avalanched to mess up the road which led them to victory after victory. Also now they do not have the stars like Warne and McGrath to repeat the extraordinary run of wins which were cut short by a valiant Pakistan last week.

On the other hand, India have transitioned from building stage to a position where they can think of ruling the world in future. They have the players to do it, a magnificent leader to guide them and prayers for over billion people to turn their dream into reality.

The Cup was at an arm’s length then, but Ricky Ponting made sure that Indians could only see and not hold the trophy. At the hindsight, India lost the match and hence the World Cup in the first half of the clash. Australians tore apart Indian bowling as if they played against local net blowers and the mood in Indian camp was so damp that their brains were blocked, choked and hassled. A win was out of the question straightaway.

Now it is time for India to settle old scores with Ricky Ponting and his men. Ponting’s form has been a cause of course for the team management, who looks far from his best. Bowling lacks bite and skills, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee being the pick of the pack.

Shane Watson and Brad Haddin hold the key for them. The opening duo has given solid start to the team and provided a stable platform for the rest, right through the tournament and will look to do the same in the quarter final game on Thursday.

The pressure will be on both sides. India will be playing at home, so the home crowd will be expecting nothing less than a win, while Ponting is under fire for his batting and the fact that the Aussies have not let go the Cup since 12 years, winning it again for the fourth consecutive time will be what Ponting’s army aiming at.

JPN/Bureau