India one step away from glory, but Australia rely on new ball to shatter World Cup title dreams

- November 18, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

India and Australia, the two in-form teams, take on each other at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in the World Cup final on Sunday; while India are favourites, Australia would want to start well with the ball to put pressure

While everything, from hoardings and gates at the Ahmedabad airport welcoming fans, to the talk of cricket and closing ceremony among passengers in metro train, and the 16 platforms set up for chartered flights coming in to the city with VIP guests, reveal that there is the World Cup final between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium here on Sunday, nothing could give it away more than Rohit Sharma, among the calmest cricketers, getting agitated by a journalist’s mobile ringing while he was in the middle of answering a question.

The train of thought, which the India cricket team captain was narrating with focus, was interrupted and he blurted out, ‘kya yaar (what man)’ to something he would laugh off in normal circumstances.

Naturally, there is pressure since this was the eve of the big game against Australia, a team that has looked like the only one in the competition with an ability to stop the Indian juggernaut, which hasn’t lost even once in its 10 games at the tournament.

Australia, with five World Cup titles in 50-overs cricket against India’s two, are coming into the final with eight consecutive wins following losses in the first two matches, and probably with the confidence of knowing that there is a tinge of green on the pitch.

Rohit, who accompanied coach Rahul Dravid to the pitch on Saturday, revealed this to media saying that the pitch is different in appearance from the one used against Pakistan here on October 14.

“That wicket against Pakistan, there was no grass on it. This wicket has some grass on it. You know that wicket looked a lot drier than this one… From my understanding obviously it’s slightly going to be on the slower side,” said the India captain.

The pitch can impact India exploiting Australia’s weakness against spin that was exposed in the semi-final against South Africa and in their first match, against India.

The Aussies struggled when faced with slow bowlers and the news that the pitch has some green appearance will please them.

“I think, of all the venues, perhaps [at] this venue, the toss isn’t as important as, say, [at] a Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai or other venues,” said Cummins to media.

“Again, I am not a great pitch reader, but it looked pretty firm. They have only just watered it, so yeah, give it another 24 hours and have a look, but it looks like a pretty good wicket.”

Rohit was asked if he will play R Ashwin in the final. The off-spinner hasn’t played a single game but Australia’s vulnerability against spin in Thursday’s semi-final even against a part-time off-break bowler like Aiden Markram, has brought the focus on him. Ashwin was the among few including Mohammed Siraj, Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja and Suryakumar Yadav to take the optional nets session on Saturday.

The India captain, however, was non-committal on Ashwin.

“We haven’t decided anything yet. We will assess the wicket today and tomorrow and decide. We have 12-13 players fixed. We will have to see how the wicket looks tomorrow, and… what their weakness can be,” he said.

Besides Australian batsmen’s battle against spinners, Indian openers’ tussle with the new ball bowlers will be the other aspect that can decide the final.

Rohit’s aggressive approach from the start of the innings has landed the initial punch on the opposition bowlers, demoralising them, but incidentally Australia pacemen Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc have been the only new ball bowlers to trouble the Indian top-order.

Hazlewood recalled the October 8 match.

Asked by Patriot in a press meet after the semi-final against South Africa in Kolkata on Thursday whether India’s aggressive approach in the first power-play will be a worry, Hazlewood said, “Hopefully similar to the last time we played them. We got them out cheaply. I think we made them 3-3 (3 wickets down for 2 runs) maybe, so that would be ideal yeah.”

While Indian pace bowlers have taken 51 wickets, the spinners haven’t been left behind, picking 31 scalps. The Australians are relying only on one specialist spinner, Adam Zampa, who too struggled against India and South Africa. That is probably why Pat Cummins’s team would want their pace bowlers to do well.

Match starts at 2 pm.