World Cup final: Will Team India exact its 2003 revenge on Australia?
Spin theme may rule as hosts prefer for a used wicket again at Ahmedabad
An event like the 50-overs World Cup final, cricket’s big prize and played over 48 years now, will always have a baggage of history. It’s no different this time as the revenge theme is playing on the Indian fans’ minds for the 125-run hammering that they received at the hands of the invincible Aussies in Johannesburg in the 2003 final.
No sooner the final match-up was decided on Thursday night, it has become the biggest sub plot and being brought up in the media conferences – though the stakeholders see no reason to harp on it after all these years.
The world has moved on and the rival captains, Player of the Final Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly, are now middle aged men who share the dugout of the same IPL franchise in coaching roles and are likely to be TV pundits for the face-off on Sunday.
"I mean, neither player from both sides were there in 2003, so it feels a long time ago. But we know it’s going to be a packed house. There’s going to be 130,000 fans here supporting India. So, it's going to be awesome,’’ Australian skipper Pat Cummins said at the pre-match media conference.
Asked if he felt the current Indian team is showing a similar aura like Ponting’s men to be able to turn the tables, Rohit Sharma was dismissive in the evening. ‘’See, I don’t believe in aura or anything like that. If we make mistakes on the day, then all the good work will go waste,’’ he said.
The revenge apart, similarities are being drawn up in the timeline of these two teams’ campaign two decades apart. Ponting’s team went on to become unbeaten champions in 2003 and 2007 – a streak which India are trying to emulate this time after 10 wins at a stretch.
The pressure will certainly be more on Rohit Sharma & Co for despite having crossed the semi-final jinx after two editions, the bigger picture remains that they have failed to win a major ICC championship across any format in the last decade.
It is nothing short of an anomaly, given the fact that the past decade had been an extremely productive one for Indian cricket – where the duo of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have strode like a colossus, have won back-to-back away Test series in Australia and the teams have frequently enjoyed long stints as the No.1 team in all formats.
Despite India’s dominance throughout the past month, if any team had them on the ropes it was Australia in the first game when Cummins & Co had reduced them to 2/3 in a chase of 200 before Kohli and K.L. Rahul brought them back in the game with a courageous partnership.
The Indian think tank certainly remembers this and hence are playing on a used pitch, built with black soil and expected to be slow with less carry for the fast bowlers.
The ‘Pitchgate,’ as a section of the visiting media began to call it in the wake of allegations that the wicket was changed in the 11th hour for the semi-final in Mumbai, did not really have a bearing on that match as more than 700 runs were scored by both teams last week.
The fallibility of teams like Australia or South Africa against spin has been no secret and Rahul Dravid & Co must have kept a keen eye on how the five-time champions struggled against Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shami at the Eden on Thursday.
Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, both of whom have played a successful part in choking the rival batsmen in the group stages, will look to do the same – though it remains to be seen if the dew factor plays it’s part.
However, it would be prudent to put the runs on the board first as the history of the finals tells you. In 12 finals, team batting first has won it on eight occasions – and the last occasion when chasers won it was India was in 2011 at the Wankhede.
Let’s wait and watch which way the dice rolls!
Final: India vs Australia
When: Sunday, 19 November 2023
Where: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad
Time: 2 pm IST