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World Cup Final: Team India aims to put 2003 ghosts to rest

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma with Australian Skipper pat Cummins with the World Cup trophy (ICC)


In a repeat of the 2003 Cricket World Cup final, India will lock horns in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup against Australia at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.

India reached the finals following a 70-run win over New Zealand in the semifinal at Mumbai. India has entered its fourth World Cup final, having won the title in 1983 and 2011 while they lost in 2003 against Australia in South Africa by 125 runs. India will be aiming for their third title and avenging the heartbreaking loss to mighty Aussies that day in Johannesburg.

In the second semifinal, Australia beat South Africa in another tight game at Kolkata by three wickets to reach their eighth WC final. Aussies have won five World Cups previously in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015.

In their undefeated run in the tournament, India has not done anything wrong. Their top order has fired runs with an attacking intent that puts the opponent on the back in the starting itself. The middle-order offers a mix of aggression and stability that not a lot of teams have brought in this tournament. The pace attack has been fiery throughout the tournament while spinners have been bamboozling and hard to read. Except for a few moments where India’s top order gave away or certain bowlers looked off-colour, Team India maintained its dominance and the result is, 10 wins in 10 games.

The Indian top-order consisting of openers Rohit Sharma (550 runs) and Shubman Gill (350 runs) and Virat Kohli (711 runs) will have to give a good start to Men in Blue no matter whether batting first or second. Though the aggressive approach of Rohit-Gill has bore fruits so far, they might have to slow down just a little bit against a world-class pace attack consisting of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and skipper Pat Cummins. If the aggression continues however and bowlers look off-colour, it would be a golden opportunity for India to maximise on.

Rohit also has a fantastic ODI record against Australia. In 44 ODIs against Aussies, he has scored 2,332 runs at an average of 58.30, with eight centuries and nine fifties. His best score is 209.

Virat will continue to stick to his role as an anchor. He will have the responsibility to bat deep so that openers and middle-order batters Shreyas Iyer (526 runs) and KL Rahul (386 runs) are able to express themselves freely.

Virat often saves his best for games against Australia and for big clashes. In 48 clashes against Aussies, he has scored 2,313 runs at an average of 53.79, with eight centuries and 13 fifties in 46 innings.

Coming to India’s bowling, once again, Men in Blue have been top-notch. Mohammed Shami (23 wickets) has taken six games to make an impact that many bowlers cannot make across their World Cup careers. The pressure exerted by Jasprit Bumrah (18 wickets) with the new ball has helped not only Bumrah, but also Shami and Mohammed Siraj (13 wickets) to feast on their opponents, who get helpless ball-by-ball.

Kuldeep Yadav (15 wickets) and Ravindra Jadeja (16 wickets) have played their role well as spinners, restricting runs in middle overs.

However, there are certain things India must be wary of. First is, the tendency of young, inexperienced and legends alike to sometimes choke under the pressure of a semifinal/final. Secondly, if the wicket is spin-friendly, India will have to play spin carefully as they have often faced collapse against spin bowling. Australia has powerful spinners in Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell. Thirdly, India should not lose their way while attempting to be attacking as the occasion is much bigger now. Lastly, the fielding should be on point as India has often suffered due to dropped catches and mixed run-outs on big stages.

Coming to Australia, after two losses to India and South Africa, the Aussies turned ‘mighty’ once again by winning their next eight matches successively, showcasing immense resilience, determination and bravery.

A lot of Australia’s performance will be dependent on openers David Warner (528 runs), Travis Head (192 runs) and Mitchell Marsh (421 runs). Their free-flowed, attacking game can snatch the match from opponents in the starting 10-20 overs itself. However, in front of a world-class Indian bowling attack, it could backfire. Irrespective of the result, Travis, Warner and Marsh will have to play their natural game and not overthink or else India can easily put them under pressure.

Australia has a major weakness to overcome, the performance of their middle order consisting of Steve Smith (298 runs), Marnus Labuschagne (304 runs), Josh Inglis (159 runs) and Glenn Maxwell (398 runs). It has been inconsistent throughout the tournament and struggled heavily against Indian bowling, especially spinners in this year’s bilateral series as well. The middle-order has often caused explosive starts by openers get wasted.

In bowling, The ‘World Cup Starc’ did not really turn up this year. With his wicket-taking streak in the World Cup broken and tally reading 13 wickets in nine matches, Indians batters would be looking to take advantage of the mental struggles that Starc might have faced after an underwhelming tournament. Hazlewood (14 wickets), Cummins (13 wickets) have not been at their very best either. It is very possible that India attacks them. But it would also not be surprising to see them bounce back as the Australia has a ‘Big Match’ mode that it keeps secretive till it matters.

Adam Zampa (22 wickets) will be Australia’s key bowler with his spin, aiming to choke India’s run-flow with his bowling if the surface offers help. Maxwell could also utilise his part-time spin well.

India squad: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav.

 Australia squad: Pat Cummins (C), Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc.


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