This was the dream final everyone following the Under-19 World Cup was hoping for. Although some Indians might argue that nothing can beat the excitement of an Indo-Pak clash, the fact still remains that the two best teams in the competition have progressed through to the final, which will be played on Sunday, at the Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville. Being defending champions, and having been unbeaten in the tournament so far, the Aussies would fancy their chances of putting it across the Indians, but the latter side only needs to have one good day in the field to reverse all predictions.
For India to do well in the final, their top three batsmen will have to deliver once again. The trio of skipper Unmukt Chand, Prashant Chopra and Baba Aparajith has done exceedingly well in the tournament, and their performance has been one of the key reasons why India have made it all the way. The middle and lower order batting is a definite problem for the Indians, which the Aussie pacers would be keen to exploit. In Joel Paris, Mark Steketee and Gurinder Sandhu they have three pace bowlers, who could do the job for them. If Australia can snare a couple of early wickets, the Indian middle-order will be exposed, and this could only work to Australia’s favour. From this point of view, the performance of Vijay Zol, who has got the talent but hasn’t delivered, might be crucial.
As always, India’s strength in the bowling lies in their spin department. Both left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh and offspinner Baba Aparajith have been effective using different methods. Harmeet has given the ball air and troubled opponents whereas Aparajith has been quickish but has succeeded in restricting the batsmen. India should be aware that the Aussie batsmen only managed to score 14 runs off South Africa offspinner Prenelan Subrayen's quota of 10 overs in the semi-finals. Chand and co would thus be keen to work over the Aussies in the spin department.
In an interesting twist to the tale, Aussies have enjoyed chasing targets, while India have been successful at defending scores. The Aussies have batted first only one time at this venue, and that game was the relatively easier one against Nepal. India, meanwhile, have done the same three times, and have looked rather comfortable at the same. Unless, the conditions are really tough for batting first, India would like to continue setting targets. However, it would be intriguing to see what happens if things are the other way round, depending on the toss of course.
The crowd support is expected to be greater for Australia, but Indians fans possess the natural ability to make their presence felt anywhere courtesy the noise they make. Chand and co will need to cling on to every inch of support as they try to overcome the mighty Aussie challenge.
--By A Cricket Analyst