I have that sinking feeling again. Look, I know I’ve been wrong in the past, and I shouldn’t behave like a fair-weather fan. For whatever reason, I’m stuck in the 1990s and, to safeguard myself against inevitable heartbreak, I like to believe India won’t win, only to feel the customary thrill when they do. But what fan of this team could reasonably conclude India stand a chance of beating Australia in the quarterfinal?
Do not consider the record on paper, or batsmen’s averages, or anything like that — just look at the tournament performance so far. Going into the World Cup, we knew India’s weakness was its bowling. So far, that’s been about right: without Zaheer Khan, or the occasional help from a spinner, we’re not doing too well. Unfortunately, neither is our batting: we have a strong top-order, but a weak lower one. Meanwhile, Australia’s pace strategy can go awry (as it did against Pakistan), especially when Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson form two parts of the chair. Together, though, they are a fearsome pack, out to crush toes. And I fear an intangible element is missing in India’s campaign. There isn’t the same momentum we saw in 2003, or the sheer will to win in the T20 2007 cup. I don’t know if it’s the quality of the opposition, but India doesn’t seem to have lifted, and they don’t look like winners (whereas South Africa and, weirdly enough, Pakistan, do). Will Harbhajan Singh bowl well? Will Yusuf/Virat perform? Will Brett Lee destroy India?
So, I’m taking a huge risk here and calling it: India lose in a couple of days. Achettup, please, prove me wrong. Comfort me now! (Again, just to protect myself against angry comments, I’m obviously rooting for an India victory. I’m just not convinced so far that it’s on the cards. I’m scared as hell.)