ICC World Cup | India and Australia eye the crown in a clash of the Titans

Rohit’s men, in red-hot form with 10 consecutive wins in this tournament, will be desperate for an ICC silverware since the 2013 Champions Trophy while Cummins & Co. will be determined to emerge as a sixth-time champion side

November 18, 2023 02:31 pm | Updated 09:32 pm IST - Ahmedabad

Captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid look at the pitch ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup final against Australia in Ahmedabad.

Captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid look at the pitch ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup final against Australia in Ahmedabad. | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

The World Cup awaits its coronation. Opening its campaign against Australia at Chennai on Oct. 8, India will now face the same opponent in the final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19. For the Men in Blue, life has come a full circle while they seek the Cup that will add lustre to their legacy.

The host has remained unbeaten so far and the rival has notched eight wins on the trot. Just like the IAF jets that did their sorties on Saturday, India and Australia too want to scale the skies when the dust eventually settles on the quadrennial tournament. Just that one team will embrace ecstasy while the other will sulk in agony, and that is the nature of sport.

Australia last played a World Cup final on Indian soil in the 1987 edition when Allan Border’s men prevailed over England at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens. Cut to the present, the challenge is even more arduous as Rohit Sharma’s men are in red-hot form.

The team hit the high notes all through the championship, and if there was a stutter, it came right in that first clash against Australia when India was reduced to two for three while chasing a total of 199. Eventually, the host prevailed, and since then has never looked back.

Fans hold placards and cheer for the victory of the Indian cricket team in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final against Australia, in Ahmedabad, on November 18, 2023

Fans hold placards and cheer for the victory of the Indian cricket team in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final against Australia, in Ahmedabad, on November 18, 2023 | Photo Credit: Reuters

But that brief stretch of vulnerability should enthuse the Aussies, as they hope to spoil India’s expected party at a gargantuan venue where more than a lakh will throng, eager to become part of history. That India hasn’t won any ICC silverware since the 2013 Champions Trophy title in England has been too heavy a cross to bear and Rohit and company get a chance to end this 10-year drought.

Rohit, Virat Kohli and the other batters are all in superb touch; the same holds true for the bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah, as their rhythm and energy levels have been excellent. The fielding did lag a bit against New Zealand in the semifinal at Mumbai, and hopefully it will remain an aberration.

Meanwhile, Pat Cummins and his men have steadily progressed and have enough firepower to test the Indians. David Warner and Glenn Maxwell, among batters, and the Mitchell Starc-led attack with Adam Zampa offering the spinning counter, are all part of the opposition’s strengths.

Fans hold an Indian national flag and cheer for the victory of the Indian cricket team in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final against Australia, on a street in Ahmedabad, on November 18, 2023.

Fans hold an Indian national flag and cheer for the victory of the Indian cricket team in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final against Australia, on a street in Ahmedabad, on November 18, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

It is a unit that may not have fired in unison like India, but Australia, having won the World Cup on five occasions, surely knows what needs to be done in a summit clash. The pitch will be the same as the one used for the game against Pakistan on Oct. 14. India won that encounter, and a repeat on Sunday will revive the Diwali spirit across the nation.

The teams (from)

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), K.L. Rahul, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh Krishna.

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

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth; Third umpire: Joel Wilson; Match referee: Andy Pycroft.

Match starts at 2 p.m.

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