The first thing that was noticed on arrival in this bustling Australian city was the sharp dip in temperature from the warm confines of coastal India.
As one came out of the terminal in the noticeable chilly conditions last night, with the temperature dipping to eight degrees today morning, there was a clear indication that the Australian summer was yet to set in.
How much will these cool weather conditions in Australia affect the prospects of the various teams, including the one led by India’s Rohit Sharma, that have assembled in this vast country for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is open to conjecture.
The tournament, hosted by the reigning T20 World Champions, commenced on October 16 with shock defeats for Sri Lanka and the West Indies against minnows Namibia and Scotland respectively.
The defeat of Sri Lanka against Namibia, which in turn lost to another unfancied team Netherlands in a close game yesterday in Group A of the preliminary league, has made things intriguing, to say the least.
The Lankans bounced back well by thrashing little fancied UAE by 79 runs yesterday to keep their qualifying hopes up and running.
Netherlands, who have won both their league games in the four-team group A so far, will sail through if they defeat Lanka, coming into this tournament with their morale boosted sky high following their title triumph in the Asia Cup held in the UAE last month, tomorrow.
Such a scenario will lead to a scramble for booking the second qualifying spot for the Super 12 stage and a place in Group 1, also featuring India and arch-rivals Pakistan, between Lanka and Namibia.
One of the key members of the Dutch squad is 19-year-old, Punjab-born left handed opener Vikramjit Singh who top-scored with 39 off 31 balls in the Netherlands’ five-wicket victory over Namibia.
He also featured in a sound opening stand of 59 with fellow opener Max O’Dowd to help the Dutch chase down Namibia’s modest score of 121 for six with three balls to spare.
A good outing against the Lankans would be good for the youngster’s prospects in the next edition of the Indian Premier League, or the other T20 leagues being played around the world, as Vikramjit also bowls medium pace with his right hand.
Meanwhile, India’s preparations for their campaign in the mega T20 event ahead of their highly anticipated lung opener against Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground have gone reasonably well.
What was a huge morale-booster for the Indians was the splendid last over, the only one that he bowled, by experienced speedster Mohammed Shami against Australia in their first official warm-up game in Brisbane on October 17.
Shami grabbed three wickets in the only over, the 20th of the match, that he bowled to halt Australia’s progress.
Coming as he did after recovering from Covid and as a late replacement for the injured Jasprit Bumrah would have heartened the Indian outfit’s think tank.
Shami has certainly staked a strong claim for inclusion in the high-octane campaign opener against Pakistan at the MCG here on October 23 after being not even in the scheme of things originally.
A fully packed stadium with a crowd of over 90,000, including more than 4000 standing room ticket holders, is expected for the fourth eagerly awaited match-up between these bitter rivals in exactly a year’s time going back to October 24 2021 in the previous edition of the World T20 held in the UAE.
Pakistan won that match comprehensively by ten wickets with 13 balls to spare and Rohit Sharma’s team will look forward to avenging that defeat and kick start their campaign to regain the crown which Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team won for the first and only time in 2007 in South Africa.
In their next two clashes in last month’s Asia Cup the honours were split.
As such another tight and riveting contest is on the cards for the millions of fans in both the countries and for the thousands of others who have booked their tickets for the no-holds- barred encounter here well in advance.