Third Man Cricket » Australia vs New Zealand, Semi Final Preview – Will Life be Fair..? : An Expat Cricket Website
Australia vs New Zealand, Semi Final Preview – Will Life be Fair..?

In a perfect world, our heroes would remain heroes forever, and there would be no villains. If life were fair, Australia would be lauded the world over as the standard-bearers of the sport. Incredibly skilled and assertive on the field; any indiscretions on their part would be quickly forgotten – drowned out in a sea of wickets, boundaries and catches that their supremely talented players constantly provide. If life were fair, India would be perhaps the most popular team in the world outside their own borders: cricket followers everywhere would marvel at their batting prowess, their intelligence with the ball, and their unbridled love of the game.

Unfortunately, fate has conspired that these two teams – admirable and likeable in their own ways – will play out what many would dub “the battle of the villains” at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The bookmakers have installed Australia as favourites, however they might be guilty of being 6 weeks behind the times. This Indian team that was being bullied all over Australia a few months ago have proven themselves capable learners: once their defence of the World Cup has started, they have seemed at one with the dimensions of the grounds, the subtleties of the weather, and the bounce of the pitches. With the Swami-Army filling grounds wherever they play, they seem almost at home.

One team that is definitely at home, however, is Australia. They were installed as pre-tournament favourites, and despite a razor-tight loss to New Zealand in pool play, remain the team most likely to raise the trophy in Melbourne on Sunday. Although their wobbles against Pakistan will give opponents hope; images of Warner and Maxwell smashing sixes, with Starc and Johnson terrorising batsmen are too hard to dismiss from ones psyche. One question that every Swami-Army member will be asking themselves in moments of quiet is: can we really beat this team in Sydney?

Both teams are so imposing and so well-rounded, it’s easier (and shorter) to discuss areas of weakness instead of areas of strength. For India’s part, there are the old questions that have traditionally plagued Indian tourists: Is their pace bowling that penetrative? Is their fielding that dedicated? When things don’t go their way, will the standards drop? These questions might seem harsh, but in the pressure of a semi-final there is a distinct possibility the Indian team may revert to type – and not play like the inspired world-beaters they have been in this tournament to date. Australia have their own weaknesses – namely a lack of a genuine spinner, and legacies of batting collapses that give their supporters reason to worry. Furthermore to win a World Cup semi-final they will need to show more character than they have shown for a while, they too must be able to press through when the going gets tough – and not surrender the way they have in series played away from home in recent months.

For me, the questions that this game poses are more philosophical: Is it fair that, even in victory, this Australian team will be disliked over the on-field conduct of some of their players? Is it fair that in defeat they will be seen to have received what they deserve, and opposing fans will rejoice in saying it is karma?

Is it fair that in victory, India’s players will still bear the brunt of international dissatisfaction with the BCCI; and if beaten, they will be accused of being flat-track bullies – a charge they have surely dispelled these last 6 weeks?

Life’s not fair, and by Thursday night the cricketing Gods will seem especially cruel to players and fans of one of these teams. But then again – whoever said life was fair?

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