ICC World Cup final: How Pat Cummins & Co gatecrashed into India’s party
India’s star-studded batting line-up crumbled under pressure when it mattered the most
When Australian captain Pat Cummins threw the gauntlet on Saturday that there’s "nothing more satisfying than silencing a big crowd", it was seen more as a verbal volley ahead of the big game. At the end of it all, it was a triumph of true Aussie grit that won the day as they gatecrashed into India’s party in front of their 90,000-plus fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.
In the roll of honour for the 50-overs World Cup, there is one country that shines the brightest with six crowns: 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015 and now 2023. There is, of course, a major difference in how Cummins & Co charted their path to glory against the sentimental favourites India in the final.
Barring their maiden triumph way back in ’87 under Allan Border, there was always an aura of invincibility in their last four titles – with Ricky Ponting’s men making it a habit with an all-win record in 2003 and 2007. This time, it was far from the case as the team looked jaded while slumping into two back-to-back defeats in first two games before bouncing back with nine wins on the trot.
Where did it all go wrong for India? The frustration to find a closure, on the back of a series of overpowering performances to make it 10 wins in a row, will hurt them much more than the two semi-final heartbreaks in 2015 and 2019.
It was a pity to see droves of their supporters, who turned the city into a Blue Wave since this morning, starting to leave the stadium quietly as bravehearts Travis Head (137) and Marnus Labuschagne (58) took the match away from them with a rescue act – which has few equals in the history of the finals.
The 2003 and 2007 finals saw two of Australia’s alltime greats, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting hammering 147 and 140 not out against Sri Lanka and India, respectively, on their way to winning the crown.
Head, on the other hand, is more of a pretender in their comparison with a known weakness against the short balls, but the way he weathered the early storm with Labuschagne after being reduced to 47 for three would make it one of the greatest ODI centuries.
When Cummins sent India in for batting after winning the toss, many wondered if it was an opportunity lost. History showed that teams batting first in the finals of 50-over World Cups before this one had won eight of the 12 finals and it made common sense to put runs on the board and then try to put pressure on the opposition.
The Australian skipper had his logic for he felt that this was not exactly a 300-plus track and backed his batters to chase a target as batting may become easy in the evening with dew settling in. It was, however, a show of character in the end as neither Indian spinner was seen wiping the ball repeatedly as they were being gradually neutralised by the Aussie duo.
The morning after, once the whole of India recover from this shock, the obvious question will come back to haunt them again – are they now the biggest chokers in ICC tournaments? Or do they pay the price for often losing sight of team success and become obsessed with individual glory?
In a tournament which had Indians as both top rungetter and wicket taker in Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, respectively – not to speak of three batters scoring over 500 runs – it’s ironical that they had to finish second best again. It was virtually an identical situation when four years back, Rohit had hit a purple patch with five centuries alongwith Virat but their campaign ended up in semis.
That time around, the erstwhile skipper Virat said it was ’45 minutes of bad cricket’ which knocked them out against New Zealand. This time around, there will be more ifs and buts – if only Rohit had continued to build on his 47 instead playing an extravagant shot or the Kohli-KL Rahul had not gone such ultra cautious during their crucial partnership.
Kohli (54 off 63 balls), as so often in the tournament, tried to play the troubleshooter with KL Rahul (66 off 107 balls) but there was a phase during their fourth wicket partnership of 69 runs when there was no boundary for 98 balls. This, in the end, hurt them a lot as a below-par total of 240 meant the opposition will always be in with a chance despite the odds.
The 50-overs World Cup would then be a prize which would remain elusive for Rohit as well as the firebrand Mohammed Shami, as none of them are getting younger. However, as in life, sport does not offer guarantee of any fairytale endings!