India opener Rohit Sharma says his team’s intense rivalry with Australia will spur them on against the defending champions in Sunday’s much-anticipated World Cup clash.
Virat Kohli led India to their first-ever Test series triumph in Australia earlier this year to consolidate their position as the world’s top side in the five-day format.
But the Aaron Finch-led Australia team came back to defeat India in their own backyard in a limited-overs series in March, setting up them up for the World Cup in England and Wales.
Sharma, who made a match-winning unbeaten 122 in India’s opening game against South Africa on Wednesday, said the fierce competition between the sides promised another good contest.
“Yes, we’ve had a good rivalry between the two teams in the last few months that we played, with good competition between bat and ball,” the Indian vice-captain said at the Oval on Saturday.
“We played really good cricket in Australia, they played really good cricket in India. So it’s going to be a great contest,” added Sharma.
The usually fluent batsman, who averages more than 60 in one-day-internationals against Australia, has recently learned to control his innings and bat more responsibly.
His measured knock against a South African attack led by paceman Kagiso Rabada won him praise from Kohli, who called the innings the batsman’s “best” knock
“At times you have to go against your natural instinct and try and bat the conditions rather than batting your own batting,” said Sharma, who has scored 8,132 runs, including 23 centuries, in 207 ODIs.
“I think I have played more than 200-odd ODIs. If I don’t do it now, then when? Experience teaches you a lot of things, and that is something that has come into my game of late,” Sharma, 32, said of his more mature batting.
Former Australia captain and assistant coach Ricky Ponting has suggested the Indian seamers will take a cue from the West Indies pacemen, who troubled the Australian batsmen with a barrage of bouncers.
But Sharma said India’s bowlers would have to keep the batsmen guessing.
“See, short ball for any batsman is not easy, even the best guy who can pull the ball, who can hook the ball will find it difficult,” said Sharma.
“Probably we have the bowling attack to do that… but you don’t want to be carried away with that. We’ve got to understand the conditions and make sure that you keep the batsmen guessing all the time.”