Sydney: This Australian playing XI has just two cricketers — skipper Michael Clarke and all-rounder Shane Watson — who have experience of playing beyond the quarter-final stage in a World Cup. In Team India, there are three — skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his deputy Virat Kohli and southpaw Suresh Raina.
Michael Clarke (centre) trains with teammates during a practice session at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
Clarke realises that it's big game experience that will see a team through in such high pressure situations and that's the most probably the reason why he wants his boys to consider today's World Cup semi-final against India to be "like any other game".
"As big as this event is to every cricketing nation and to the people that support the game of cricket, as a player, it's no different to any other game. I think you don't do yourself justice if your attitude changes because of the event," Clarke said at yesterday's pre-match press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"Every time I've walked out on to the field as an Australian cricketer, I've wanted to perform individually and help the team have success and that will be no different in this game. But really, it's no different. I can't try any harder. I can't train any harder. That won't help me have success," stressed Clarke, conceding that the Indians are ahead on the big-game experience front.
"In any sport the best balanced team has a mixture. It has the experience, but it also has youth and I'm confident that our squad has that. I think every single one of those players in there has been a part of some big tournaments through their career.
"You have some older players who have played and had success in World Cups, and you've got youngsters with unbelievable talent, no fear at all, and look forward to what is thrown at them tomorrow in the semi-final. We look forward to that challenge," Clarke said in reference to the defending champions.
"I said at the start of this tournament that India were going to be one of the toughest teams to beat because they've been in the conditions for so long and played so much cricket in Australia. They've worked out how to take wickets and how to score runs," added the skipper.
MS Dhoni India
> Ravindra Jadeja dishes out an all-round show
> Bowlers continue taking wickets
> All-rounder Glenn Maxwell has an off-day
> Ashwin, Jadeja restrict run-flow in death overs
Michael Clarke Australia
> Aaron Finch is back in form
> Pacer Mitchell Starc takes early wickets
> Virat Kohli fails to score big
> Steven Smith continues his good form
Glenn Maxwell (Aus)
Unconventional shot-maker and part-time off-spinner, Maxwell, known as the 'Big Show', has bolstered Australia's innings with some spectacular late hitting in the tournament. Maxwell has hit three half-centuries in five knocks, including the second-fastest World Cup century — 102 off 53 balls against Sri Lanka in the pool stages at the SCG. His spin might come in handy on a generally turning SCG pitch, but it is his quirky batting — replete with reverse-sweeps, flicks and powerful hitting — that may prove hard for India to contain if he gets off to a start.
Suresh Raina (India)
Suresh Raina has been influential with the bat in the death overs for India. The southpaw has played a big role in turning matches in India's favour and was responsible for taking the defending champions past 300 in the opening match against Pakistan and in the quarter-final against Bangladesh. The all-rounder has struck two half-centuries and a 100 in five innings. The part-time off-spinner's 1-40 against Ireland and maiden World Cup century under pressure against Zimbabwe ensured India remained unbeaten in the league stage.