Sledging inevitable in Cup semi-final - Faulkner
Australia's allrounder James Faulkner believes instances of sledging will be inevitable in Thursday's high-stakes World Cup semi-final at the SCG, on a pitch that has already been the subject of enormous speculation and will continue to be all week.
The confrontation between Shane Watson and Pakistan's Wahab Riaz enlivened the tournament, even if the two combatants paid for their aggression and emotion with a pair of ICC fines. While India do not possess any bowler capable of matching Wahab for speed, Faulkner expected men on both sides to be replicating his attitude.
"I think there always is in the game, if there isn't you've got problems," Faulkner said. "It's the nature of the game, it's a semi-final, it's cut-throat. There's going to be words said and it's going to be a really tough contest. Neither team will be backing down."
Chances of Indian aggression being witnessed at the SCG have increased over the past month as MS Dhoni's team have found a fresh sense of purpose, direction and confidence over the course of a seven-match unbeaten run. Their form in this tournament is the exact opposite to what was glimpsed in the Tests and triangular series that preceded it - India had not won a match in three months down under before the Cup.
"We have come up against them a hell of a lot over the last 12-18 months and they've spent a fair bit of time in the country," Faulkner said. "They've adapted well to the conditions. A lot of nerves were on show a couple of nights ago [in Adelaide] and I think that's good. Both teams are exposed and if you don't have nerves you've got issues."
Faulkner's press conference began with a question about whether or not the ICC's pitch overseer Andy Atkinson would need to be called in to ensure the surface was equitable. While the query went over the head of Faulkner, who rightly pointed out that he had not even seen the turf, it underlined curiosity about a pitch that has largely favoured spin over pace this season.
"A lot depends on the wicket," Faulkner said. "The last time we played here, the wicket was obviously very good against Sri Lanka. We made 360-odd, they made over 300. It was a great one-day wicket. If it's much like that, I'm expecting a lot of runs scored. If you look over the recent past, over there or here, you've seen a lot of runs.
"Against Sri Lanka, the wicket didn't really spin and it was quite easy to get hold of. I'm not too sure what make-up they'll go in with or what make-up we'll go in with. The wicket dictates a lot, so we'll wait and see what is come game day."
The hosts' subsequent inspection of the surface revealed the strip to be the same one used for South Africa's rapid quarter-final beating of Sri Lanka. It has been watered and brought back up again, and only the thinnest film of grass was evident on Monday afternoon. Clippings have been and will be rolled into the surface over the next few days, but it is difficult to see the pitch offering much in the way of moisture or assistance for pacemen.
Australia's best hope of seeing the sort of pitch they would prefer is likely to be rain, with showers forecast for Tuesday likely to keep the surface under the covers for some hours and prevent it from drying too much more. Either way, the Australians are ready for the likelihood of a crowd where Indian support will outweigh local fans.
"We were talking about it last night at dinner, the last game we played here it definitely felt like that," Faulkner said. "The passion the Indian fans show towards their cricket team is sensational, so we're definitely expecting that come match day."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig