While diehard Indian fans must have been hoping for MS Dhoni's men to put it across the Aussies, the fact is that it was a highly overoptimistic wish. India may have been unbeaten going into the semi-final at Sydney, but they were meeting a side they had failed to beat in close to three months in spite of spending so much time in the country. On Thursday as well, the Aussies exploited India's weakness as they have done so often over the past three months. India never looked like a team that had not lost a single match going in the Sydney. On the contrary, they were looking more like the side that had been struggling Down Under. And, that is how it was destined to end for India in spite of their past glories in the event.
Losing the toss was a major setback for India, but they still had their opportunities in the game. It was just that they failed to make it count. The early wicket of the dangerous David Warner was a massive boost for the Indians. However, they could not capitalise on the same, and instead allowed the Aussies to recover. The Indian bowling trio, who had been so impressive in the previous matches, looked completely out of sync on the big day, and against a high-quality opposition. The inexperience of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma clearly came to the fore against Australia, as they looked clueless for most part of the innings.
Steven Smith, as he has so often been for India in recent times, once again proved to be the difference between the two sides. While Smith has continued his good form in the World Cup, he has developed a habit of taking his game up notches when playing against India. Again, this is what he did so well at Sydney. Coming in at the fall of Warner's wicket, Smith ensured that the Aussies were not under pressure. He rotated the strike constantly, and found the boundaries at will. His partnership with Aaron Finch set the perfect platform for the Aussies to launch an assault. Smith's rate of scoring ensured that Finch could take his own time as he wasn't timing the ball.
While Australia were clearly the dominant of the two sides, India would look back and rue some of the lost opportunities that went by. After a great partnership between Smith and Finch, India fought back with some quick wickets courtesy Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin, which hampered the batting side's momentum. While Australia still held the upper hand, India could still have gained some psychological advantage had they finished on a high. Instead, they bowled poorly, and allowed Mitchell Johnson to use the long handle to great effect.
Australia's upper hand got firmer once they put up a massive score on board. At the same time, India had their moments with the bat as well. The openers got off to a fantastic start, and it seemed another close contest was on the cards. But, after Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed going a big stroke, India completely fell apart. The most disappointing aspect of this phase was that everyone from Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina got out playing poor shots, handing the match to Australia on a platter. For the second game, Ajinkya Rahane seemed nervous out in the middle, which is a cause of worry. MS Dhoni hung around, but his assault came too late in the day. Australia outplayed India in every department, and deservedly progressed to the final, ending India's unbeaten streak.
--By A Cricket Analyst