What are they hoping for?

Sunday's game at Mohali between India and Australia is a virtual quarter-final. Here are some thoughts on what some of the cricketers in action would be hoping to do in that game.

Sachin Tendulkar needs 97 runs to complete 25,000 runs in international cricket. If he gets to do that in this game, India would be better placed to reach the semis. Also, his record against McGrath and Co. in recent times hasn't been that great - scores of 5, 8, 27, 12 and 4 in his last 5 innings against the world's best should hurt his pride. He would be real keen on setting the record straight on what is supposed to be an Aussie-friendly pitch.

Sehwag has played 13 innings against Australia so far. He scored 2 half-centuries in his first 3 innings and has failed to score any since then. He averages just 22.15 against the World's best. With his ability to bowl restrictive spells, he does bring in a fair bit of utility value even when he fails with the bat. He is the right man to open with Sachin and for India to do well in the World Cup next year, he needs to fire big time at the top of the order. The Australians would be looking to test him with the short stuff and Sehwag would hope to have some answers to that kind of bowling.

If the pitch behaves the way it did in the SA vs Pak game the other day, there is no point sending in Irfan Pathan at No.3. His continued persistence at No.3 shows the amount of faith that the team management has in Irfan's ability as a batsman. But on a hard and bouncy WACA-like pitch, he just isn't the right man to walk in that early. Irrespective of where he bats, Irfan would be hoping to get some wickets in his opening spell. He is a much better bowler if he gets an early wicket.

MS Dhoni would be playing his first game against his idol, Gilchrist. He played a fairly uncharacteristic (atleast for the most part) knock in the previous game and would like to play one of his regular-type knocks against the World's best.

In the 13 games that India played Australia after the World Cup, the team managed to win only twice - VVS Laxman, the so-called test specialist had scores of 102 and 103* in those 2 games. Through out this tournament, because of the pitches on offer, the bowlers have been bowling to test-match like field settings (three slips and a forward short-leg) for most part of the innings. As Ian Chappell said, guess it is time the batsmen played like they do in a test match. Too bad, India doesn't play its test specialist in the ODI team. Suresh Raina is in the team ahead of Laxman because of his superior fielding skills. Raina is a real live-wire on the field, but his batting has been a huge let-down. Raina would probably be replaced with either Kaif or Mongia for the next game, but he would be hoping to get one more chance to convince the selectors that he can do more with the bat.

Agarkar fractured his thumb in the game against the West Indies and Sreesanth has been flown in as his replacement. Sreesanth is likely to get a game straight away. He would be hoping to make a strong impression and embarrass the selectors for ignoring him in the first-choice squad.

Adam Gilchrist needs just one more dismissal to complete 400 victims in ODIs - he would be eager to grab any nick that comes his way (or the slips' way).

McGrath hasn't been his usual self this season. He has picked up just 4 wickets in 6 games at 37.25 apiece. Those figures pale in comparison to his overall average of 22.60. He bowled first change in the last game, but would want to have a go at Sachin and Sehwag first up in the game on sunday.

After his exploits in Malaysia, Mitchell Johnson would want to have a real crack at the Indian top-order. It would be real interesting to see who gets to open the bowling. Something about bowling to the Indian top-order, just about everyone fancies a chance against them.

What am I hoping for? I would like to see India go in with Sreesanth and Mongia in place of Agarkar and Raina respectively (and Kaif in place of Yuvraj if Yuvi doesn't recover from his injury). Given the nature of the pitch, Dravid would want to go in with 4 seamers (too bad for Powar, who did so well against England). I would really like to see the Indian top-order bat well. They haven't batted well this season and I would like them (Sehwag, especially) to come real good against the World's best. Now, is that too much to ask?

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