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Packed schedule leaves no time to remember the 19th of November

There has been no real revenge narrative in the build-up despite the shadow of the 2023 World Cup final, but India will relish the chance to knock Australia out

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth and Australia's T20 World Cup 2024 campaign was dealt a haymaker in St Vincent on Saturday night. After five wins from five, most of them comfortable, their first defeat of the tournament leaves them knowing that even a win over India in St Lucia on Monday might not be enough for them to qualify for the semi-finals.
It will be their second fixture at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in this tournament but the circumstances could not be more different. They had already qualified from the group stages when they faced Scotland, with no incentive to win beyond pride and professionalism. Now, their attempt to unite the belts and become three-format world champions is at stake.
Perhaps more so than any other team - even England and New Zealand - India would love to stop them doing so. They were beaten by them in both the World Test Championship final and the 50-over World Cup final last year, and while there has not been any real 'revenge' narrative in the short build-up, India will surely relish the chance to knock Australia out.
Paras Mhambrey, India's bowling coach, said they would focus on themselves in the build-up to the Australia game - even if the date November 19 still makes most India fans shudder. "A lot of these guys have played against [Australia]," Mhambrey said. "A lot of guys have played in the IPL. In terms of knowing what the approach is… I don't think it's going to change.
"All what we can do is really focus on implementation of our plans, and the bottom line is execution. If you're as close to [perfect] execution, you will win every game. It's not about what the other opponent's going to do yet. We know what kind of approach they come with. That's the way they played in the past as well… If we're as close to our plans [as possible] I'm pretty sure that we're going to cross the other side."
Australia have known their likely schedule for some time but they have been dealt a tough one: seven days of play, travel, play, travel, play, travel, play between the start of the Super Eight and a potential semi-final in Trinidad on Wednesday. Saturday's game did not finish until after midnight, around 34 hours before the start of the India fixture - not that they are complaining.
"Once the draw comes out you're well aware of what you need to do," Andrew McDonald, their coach, said after the defeat to Afghanistan. "We've got another challenge with a short turnaround [but] every team is facing that. It'll be recovery mode tonight and tomorrow, give the boys a bit of space and we won't drill into it too much tonight.
"Getting that information into them will happen the morning of the Indian game, so there's space. The boys know where we went wrong. They're an experienced group. But there's no doubt when we come back together the morning of the Indian game they need to be at our best, and to be at our best, we need recovery. If people don't recover in time then clearly we'll make decisions based around that."
The schedule has been tough on all teams in the Super Eight phase, with all eight playing three times in five days in at least two different venues. India arrived in St Lucia on Saturday night and turned down the chance to train on Sunday after back-to-back games; if they reach the final, they will also have one fewer day to recover after the semi-final than their opponents. No team has it easy.
"The tournament has definitely sped up with short turnarounds," McDonald said. "It becomes a little bit attritional, there's no doubt about that. We've just got to make good decisions around how our players pull up, and it's no different to any other team. We'd like to think we've planned and prepared the players, who are physically prepared for the demands of it."
It could be a long day for Australia, whose progress to the semi-finals will almost certainly depend on the result of Afghanistan vs Bangladesh. That game will start in St Vincent around six hours after Australia's match against India is over, giving Afghanistan - and Bangladesh, who can still mathematically qualify - the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to do.
"You look at the other side of the draw: South Africa could lose one game and potentially could be staring at an exit, and it could be the same for us - or the same for Afghanistan or India," McDonald said. "You know how tight it is when you get to the pointy end. There's no doubt there will be plenty of discussions around net run rate, hypothesising around what it looks like.
"Afghanistan plays Bangladesh in the last game. Is that an advantage? But ultimately, we've got to take care of what's in our control and that's India. [They are] no doubt one of the tournament favourites. We'd like to think we're up there in the conversation but we've got to get to work on the next game and shift it pretty quickly."
Given this is the third Men's T20 World Cup since October 2021, it is a surprising quirk that Australia and India have not met even once since 2016. India will hope that Monday morning's game in St Lucia has a similar result to that heady night in Mohali.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98