Dhoni knows how to win World Cups - Vaughan
Regardless of conditions, skill and Australia playing at home, former England captain Michael Vaughan said the Sydney semi-final against India is a "50-50 call" because of a single factor. "MS Dhoni knows how to win World Cups and that goes quite a long way."
Vaughan was part of a two-man stand-up media gig at the Sydney ferry wharf, surrounded by reporters, tourists, seagulls and the iconic backdrop of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
In the months before the World Cup, he said Australia had "played India some 10 times and Australia had won on every occasion." Now, with India unbeaten in the tournament so far, he said Dhoni's impact has been "remarkable," and that there had been a "change of team and a change of mentality." When it came to separating the two teams, it was the Dhoni factor that could kick into India's favour - as a captain and man with a sense of occasion.
Vaughan expected the semi-final would be settled through the tone set at the start: "The team that plays well in the first 15 overs of the match, be it with the ball or bat, is the team that gets ahead and wins that game. They have all got power, all got finesse, they have got different kind angles to create in the field."
Winning the early "confrontations" would also play a key role. "I do think that will win the game," Vaughan said. "In the first twenty overs, there would be fireworks, both attacks have some pace and that will set the game."
On an SCG pitch that is expected to be run-rich, Vaughan believed both teams were equal in batting strength but had noticed the distinctive ability of Ajinkya Rahane
"I think, he is the best technician among Indian players. He plays quicks and spin as well as anybody." Over the next four or five years, Vaughan said, "you will be talking a lot about Rahane more than what we have heard (of) even up till now as he is a wonderful player.
"He doesn't get that left foot too far across and that's why he has got great balance on the back foot. He has not only got options of playing both cut shots and pull shots, but also has the option of going down the ground.
"When you have those options as a batsman, you make it difficult for opposition to set fields, as you can't set fields for shots down the ground. I think he showed in England last year, he can allow the ball to come to him."
Among the Australian batsmen, he marked Glenn Maxwell as the man who could hold back India's progress. "Maxwell has had a wonderful tournament, he has the ability to hit the ball 360 degrees from ball one. If Maxwell has his day, India cant win as he would score 100 in 50 balls."
With India's line-up, Vaughan thought Australia wouldn't be wasting their time 'targetting' India's premier batsman Virat Kohli, whose World Cup scores read: 107, 46, 33*, 33, 44* 38 and 3. "If you single out one, you would be then struggling with the other 10. India have got wonderful talent right down from 1 to 11."
Responding to James Faulkner's belief that the sledging between two teams would be "inevitable," Vaughan said, "It isn't going to be quiet and I like to see competitive edge" and a "bit of confrontation."
Although he added: "I don't think I enjoyed the Wahab Riaz-Shane Watson confrontation as I thought it was over the line." The verbals he said were fine, "unless it's not swearing."
"A little bit of sledging, banter is okay. I am sure Indians will give it back in plenty. They are not going to be quiet. Virat and co, will give it back and that's good for the game."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo