Keep up with all the action LIVE here on Sport360.com as hosts Australia take on the might of India in Thursday's second Cricket World Cup 2015 semi-final.
India are yet to beat their rivals during their four-month stay down under but have been excellent so far at the World Cup.
Australia set a target of 329 earlier on as Steve Smith scored a superb century for his side. Can India progress as they attempt to defend their World Cup crown or will it be the Australians who take on fellow co-hosts New Zealand in Sunday's final?
One of the most remarkable aspects of this Indian team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not that they are winning all their matches and dumbfounding their critics, but the fact that they are turning up 100 percent match-fit for every game.
This becomes even more incredible when you consider that almost the same bunch of players have been in Australia since their Test tour started four months ago.
The only big injury suffered by India was Ishant Sharma, when his knee gave way before the World Cup started. It’s not just the squad of 15 that we are talking about. It’s the playing 11.
While every team has made some change to their side over the duration of the last 40 days, India have been unchanged except for one match against the UAE.
Mohammad Shami was down with an injury in his right knee, which gave Bhuvneshwar Kumar an opportunity to get some action on the field.
It’s not merely a question of luck that India have been spared injuries. It is because of the terrific work done by a backroom staff that is fast becoming the envy of the cricketing world. And unlike not too long ago, the entire crop is made of homegrown, local Indian talent. The only non-Indian is coach Duncan Fletcher.
Yesterday, Rohit Sharma was asked how significant the contribution of physiotherapist Nitin Patel, mental conditioner VP Sudarshan and masseurs Ramesh Mane and Amit Shah has been towards the success of the team.
To me Australia are the fav’s to win the World Cup. They will pushed by a resurgent India tmrw, but I think NZ has won everyone’s hearts !
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) March 24, 2015
He not only waxed lyrical about them, but also said he’d be delighted to personally give them a massage as a token of appreciation for what they have done for India in the World Cup.
But it’s not just the effect of these four people. Also worth mentioning here are the new ideas of fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar, who has not only brought about massive improvements in the team’s outfielding and catching, but also to the their overall fitness level and their diving and sliding techniques, which has helped prevent injuries.
Following India’s 1-3 loss to England, the BCCI sacked the fielding coach Trevor Penny and bowling coach Joe Dawes.
That was when former Indian captain Ravi Shastri was taken on as director of cricket. Later, he was joined by Sanjay Bangar as the batting coach, Bharat Arun as the bowling coach and Sridhar. Each of them may be a new name in international cricket, but they have proven track records.
Arun was the coach of the India Under-19 team that won the World Cup earlier in Australia and was so impressive when the tournament was played last year in the UAE. And Sridhar was the fielding coach of that crack unit. Bangar was the man who turned around the fortunes of Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League last year and helped them finish runners-up.
While the public perception of Fletcher may not be very flattering, the players swear by the 66-year-old Zimbabwean. He may not have made much difference to the Indian Test teams travelling abroad, but he was the coach when the team won the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
There is a possibility that India’s wonderful journey in this World Cup might come to an end today without achieving the ultimate glory, but it will never be able to take the shine away from the unsung heroes of Indian cricket.
Kevin Pietersen may be South African cricket’s most high-profile expatriate talent, but Grant Elliott’s World Cup showstopper left the Proteas once again cursing another of their lost sons.
Elliott, born in Johannesburg and schooled at the same St Stithians College in the city which also nurtured England’s Cape Town-raised Jonathan Trott, dealt the blow that killed off South Africa’s hopes.
The 36-year-old Elliott, known to teammates as “Shunt” and “Magic”, left his home country in 2001 and seven years later made his Test debut for New Zealand.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) March 24, 2015
His Test career has since stalled but he has thrived in ODIs even if his selection for the World Cup came as a surprise for those expecting the more flamboyant Jimmy Neesham to get the nod.
“I came for a lifestyle change and also for my cricket. As soon as I arrived in New Zealand and made it my home, I had aspirations of playing international cricket for New Zealand,” Elliott revealed.
“It’s a really tough move because you always grow up thinking you’re going to be a Springbok or a Protea.”
Whereas other South Africans have left to pursue international cricket under a different flag because of the quota system in operation, Elliott insists his move to New Zealand was purely contractual.
“I always wanted to play international cricket,” Elliott said. “I wasn’t enjoying my cricket that much there, and I just needed a lifestyle change. I played for Gauteng, I had a contractual dispute with them, so that triggered me to look elsewhere as well.”