It is finally here. The grand finale of the 2023 World Cup. It is India Vs Australia, and one must admit that the best two sides of the tournament have reached the final. India, living up to the expectations of the fans as well as the prediction of the cricket pundits, deservingly qualified for the summit clash. Many former players, including me, had also predicted India playing the final at Ahmedabad and it has indeed happened. The interesting bit was who would India play in the final and turns out, it is the five-time World champions Australia.
While India had a few nervy moments vs New Zealand in the second innings, they backed themselves to finish on the winning side in the first semifinal. South Africa did show fight in the 2nd semifinal clash vs Australia, but Pat Cummins and Co held their nerves to get the side home and into the finals. You could see that these guys know how to get the job done in the big games. Cummins and Mitchell Starc, in the end, kept their calm to ensure the win happened.
I have said this many times in the earlier previews this World Cup and I am saying it again that if you start taking Aussies lightly, they will come up and bite you. They are now into their eighth final and if they beat India come Sunday, it will be their sixth trophy. That says a lot about the Australian cricket team. The Aussies are up against a team who will be playing their fourth final, aiming for the third title. It cannot get better than this.
India have played with a lot of authority. They look like a well-oiled machine. They have won ten out of ten so far. If they remain unbeaten, they will lift the trophy. But it is easier said than done. Sport is cruel to many teams. Like, there are ups and downs in life, same goes for sports. It can spring up a surprise any time and India, who have been at their best throughout, must be on the ball to win the final. Luck plays a huge role in the sport and ask New Zealand about who lost the final in the last World Cup. India cannot afford a bad day in office on Sunday.
How India handles the pressure will be interesting to see. I think there will be more pressure on the hosts than the Australians. The weight of expectations is huge, and it gets heavier now that they are playing in the final, at home. The Narendra Modi stadium will be buzzing with more than a lakh blue shirt, waiting and hoping for an India win and the best teams are those who perform and win despite this pressure.
The Men in Blue just to need to keep doing the good work and not think about the expectations. They have been excellent so far. Virat Kohli is the leading run-scorer. Over 700 runs in 10 matches. Just broke the great Sachin Tendulkar’s most ODI centuries record and has 50 of them to his name. Incredible, to say the least.
Look at Rohit Sharma. His leadership is reflected in his batting. Rohit continues to provide India great starts with quick fifties and forties. He has been brilliant tactically on the field too. Mohammed Shami is in the form of his life with the ball, bowling magically.
The question is: Can the Aussies throw a spanner in the works? Can they apply pressure on the home team from the start. If they manage to put India on the back foot early in the game, we will have a match on.
Once again, I feel the team winning the toss should bat first. Even if it is a bit gloomy like it was in Kolkata during the second semifinal. It was overcast. But runs on the board are huge. Batting first and putting the runs on the board is the formula in big matches such as the final. However, I think the team’s own planning and what strengths they want to play with will also influence the captains’ decision at the toss.
Key matchups: India batting vs Aussie pacers
Indian batting has been top-notch in the World Cup so far. But watch out for the Australian pacers who have only improved with each game in this tournament. The trio of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc were brilliant in the semi-final, breaking the back of the starstudded South African batting. Adam Zampa may have had a poor game vs Proteas, but he is still among the leading wicket-takers in this tournament. There are good all-rounders with the Aussies in the form of Glenn Maxwell, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh who can chip in with some quality overs.
Australians have variety in their bowling attack. They have got several options up their sleeves to go to. India’s bowling attack, in complete contrast, is limited to five pure bowlers. The good thing is that they all are in great shape and doing well collectively.
The fans will be in for a treat if both these teams bring their A game. Imagine a 350-plus run put on the board and then the match getting decided in the last over. That would be some final.
So, gentlemen, raise a glass and let’s get into this. Let’s hope for a great game.