This rampaging Indian cricket team has had a World Cup to make statisticians fall to their knees in awe – but they are not unbeatable.
If Cup finals were played on computers this one would be over already given India – incredibly – own three of the tournaments’ top four batting averages and the top four places in the bowling averages.
That’s incredible. Unprecedented.
It means teams facing them confront a statistical brick wall whether they bat or bowl featuring a string of batsmen averaging 50-plus and bowlers averaging in the teens per wicket.
But guess what? Australia has beaten India five times in their last 10 one-day starts and should have beaten them in this tournament if not for one dropped catch. This year India lost to Bangladesh and the West Indies. They do have off days.
Let’s identify some cracks in the wall …
THE BIG FIVE
India have five outstanding bowlers … then thin air.
The mid-tournament loss of all-rounder Hardik Pandya means India have no bowling all-rounder or high class sixth bowling option.
Their next best options – Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – have taken just one wicket each for the tournament.
Taking one of the big five down won’t be easy but if it could happen, India’s entire bowling plan gets thrown out of kilter.
We have identified a likely target …
TAKE DOWN SIRAJ
Mohammed Siraj is having a solid World Cup (13 wickets at 32) but he has been India’s least effective fast man. New Zealand picked him out and went hard in their last game when he took 1-78 off nine.
He is a likely target again.
History can at times be a weapon in big games (ask South Africa).
India has not won a white ball World Cup since 2011 and the best way of turning a milestone into a millstone is for Australia to bat first and ask India to chase down a formidable total to make history.
Easier said than done but Australia must try and ask India to come up with a hero other than Virat Kolhi.
While the entire top order has been on fire, Kohli (711 runs at 101) has been in a league of his own.
In-form Josh Hazlewood is worth a crack at Kohli.
He recently snared him four times in a row in ODI matches and knows him well as they were IPL teammates for the past two years.
DON’T BE SHAMI-WIPED
Finals are won by playing the ball and not the reputation but Australia must accept that caution and respect might ultimately be the best tactic against the world’s most underrated bowler, swingman Mohammed Shami.
Shami’s jaw-dropping effort to average a wicket every 11 balls this tournament (23 at nine apiece) means there is no crime in occasionally letting go his dangerous outswinger. If Shami takes 0-30 off 10 it’s deceptively good result for Australia.
TALE OF THE TAIL
India have a relatively long and weak tail starting with Shami at No 8.
The challenge is chopping down the tall timber in front of them to get there.
But if you do …
Heavy duty finals require heavy duty players. With India boasting one of the most impressive attacks fielded in World Cup cricket Marnus Labuschagne is worth retention for the final match of the tournament. This will be a game of incredible pressure – just the sort of games he dreams about.