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  • Cricket World Cup 2015: Toss can go either way on home-ground advantage

    2018 - 11.21

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    Australian cricketers playing in India used to have to contend with dysentery, hepatitis, dengue fever and rodent-infested hotels, not to mention crowd riots and questionable umpiring.

    Times have changed: for an away game against India this week, they can sleep in their own beds and travel no further than Moore Park.

    Such is the globalised (or cricket-globalised, meaning Indian) nature of the ICC World Cup, Thursday’s much anticipated semi-final will have India hosting Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. India have outdrawn Australia in Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.

    Their Swami Army is but a division in the masses they bring to Sydney. The crowd is likely to be dominated by pale blue shirts, in numbers and also in decibels.

    Former Australian fast bowler Gordon Rorke once likened the noise at an Indian cricket match to “having a radio on at full blast in your ear all day”.

    “Even when you weren’t playing in the match, it was exhausting.”

    Australian venues have been getting an earful of India ever since a rejuvenated M. S. Dhoni’s World Cup juggernaut woke up and got rolling more than a month ago.

    World Cup cricket is different. Even the SCG wicket will withhold any home-ground familiarity from the Australians. Preparing pitches in the autumn, with winter coming, has seen curator Tom Parker lay out fresh, fizzy strips in the past fortnight that have also been soft enough to offer hope to spin bowlers. India are prepared for both, with two wily spinners, R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, to complement a wound-up pace attack led by Mohammed Shami. Australia, comparatively, have all their eggs in the fast-bowling basket.

    A final in Melbourne awaits on Sunday. The Black Caps will be there. Which of the black hats will meet them? New Zealand have played their cricket in a notably amiable spirit, as did their semi-final opponents, South Africa.

    For the relentlessly combative Australia and India, who have been quarrelling since November, there is no such pax. Each side has a kennel of attack dogs. Whose will be let out first – India’s Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma or Australia’s David Warner and Shane Watson – will depend on who first begins to feel desperate.

    With India undefeated in the World Cup and amnesiac about their troubles against Australia during the spring and summer, this could well be the last game of a season for the Australians that started in grief and will end, whatever the result on the field, in sorrow.

    It has been a long four months since Phillip Hughes lost his life after being knocked down on this turf, and for that reason alone his teammates will regard it as theirs to defend.

    Their truce with India only lasted days, but at the end of this match they will each be able to lay down their equipment and call it quits. For the veterans on the losing side, the coloured clothing will be put away for good and the quiet reflection will begin. For the winners, whoever they are, there will be home-ground advantage on Sunday.

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