Motera, March 24: The air in the subcontinent is tense with anticipation as the team positioned second in Group B of the World Cup 2011 gears up to take on third team of Group A - India and Australia. The latter might be a beleaguered unit at present, especially coming off a defeat at the hands of the Pakistanis in the league stage of the tournament. But there something about a high-stakes' knock-out scenario which evokes the best from the side.
But what do the history books say about these India and Australia in World Cups? The men from Down Under are far and away the best performers in the quadrennial event, snatching 55 wins from 73 encounters at a win percentage of over 70, while India's is placed at number 5 with a success rate of under 60, having claimed victory in 36 matches and been handed defeat in 26. These two teams are no strangers to each other on cricket's greatest stages, having met a total of nine times in World Cups.
Against each other in World Cups, India has won just twice, while the side from Down Under has come out tops on 7 occasions. Here's a quick look at the various encounters -
India met Australia for the first time in the big event way back in 1983. In that match, Trevor Chappell scored a century for Australia as his side surged to 320/9 in 60 overs and even though Kapil Dev took 5/43 and then top-scored for his team with 40, India still lost the match by a staggering 162 runs. But the dark horses came back in the tournament and just a week later inflicted a crushing 118 run defeat on the Aussies, after the former compiled 247 (with Yashpal Sharma top-scoring with 40) and then bowled out the latter for 129, with Madan Lal and Roger Binny taking four wickets a piece.
The next time these two sides met was in the 1987 edition. In the first group stage match between these two sides, Aussie opener Geoff Marsh hit a century as he guided his side to a formidable 270/6 in 50 overs. In reply, India's top order came good with 70 from Kris Srikanth and 73 from Navjot Singh Sidhu, but the latter order caved in as Craig McDermott picked up 4 wickets and Maninder Singh was bowled by Steve Waugh off the last ball with the home side, just one short of the Aussie total.
However, India got its revenge in the same tournament when in another group match, the home team put on 289/6, aided by a quickfire 63 from Dilip Vengsakar to then bowl out Australia for 233, with Maninder Singh and Mohammad Azharuddin (!) sharing in the destruction with 3 wickets a piece.
Then in the 1992 World Cup, Australia again sneaked home by one run. In that encounter, Australia put on a modest 237/9 with Dean Jones top-scoring for his side with 90 and Manoj Prabhakar and Kapil Dev taking three wickets each, before India canterd along in the chase with a 93 from Azhar, just to fumble at the end. Aussie medium-pacer Tom Moody performed the last rites on India in that match with 3/56.
1996 saw another close contest between these two sides. Aussie opener Mark Waugh top-scored for his side with 126, but two wickets a piece to Venkatest Prasad and Venkatappi Raju and one to Anil Kumble, saw the visitors bowled out for 258 in 50 overs. Then a brisk 90 from Tendulkar would have taken the home team home, if it hadn't undergone a middle-order decline to fall 16 short of the Aussie total. Paceman Damien Fleming ended up proving the key nemesis for India in that match as he picked up 5/36.
Since 1996, the Aussies have dominated India in the World Cup milieu, winning comprehensively in 1999 by 77 runs and then even more convincingly in 2003, first in the group stage, by 9 wickets with 166 balls to spare and then in the final of the tournament, by a whopping 125 runs. In the latter match, Ricky Ponting blasted 140 off 121 balls as the Aussies compiled a mammoth 359 before India were bowled out for 234.
Considering, it has been 8 whole years since these two sides have faced off in a World Cup, one wonders if history will play its part at all or if both teams will be starting with a clean slate. The only constants from 2003 is Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Pontings's presence in the Indian squad. However, the former, unlike the latter, is still in devastating form which many will be hoping will spur him on to his record 100th international century. Will the Aussies be able to stop him now?