The State of Play
After six weeks of interesting, rather than pulsating, action, the Cricket World Cup comes to a close on Sunday with hosts India taking on five-time champions Australia.
Rohit Sharma’s India have blazed a trail through the tournament, winning every one of their 10 games, including a six-wicket triumph over Australia on October 8. Their top-order has looked ominous – particularly Virat Kohli – while their pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have decimated opposing batting line-ups. Add in an expected turning pitch that could see Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav become central figures in the final, and they make a compelling case.
Australia are on an unbeaten run of their own, having won their last eight matches to secure a place in the showpiece on Sunday in Ahmedabad. There is a hint of “seen it, done it” about this team that ought to make India wary. Opener David Warner continues to produce and his partnership with Travis Head is key. And in captain Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc they posses a pace attack to rival India’s.
It ought to be an absorbing final.
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It seems inconceivable that India will make changes to the side that saw off New Zealand in the semi-finals. The only poser for coach Rahul Dravid is the pitch and whether he calls up Ravichandran Ashwin, who has played just once in the tournament so far. The problem comes in who to drop so expect India to go with their tried and trusted.
It’s a similar story for Australia, who are expected to name an unchanged XI. The dilemma before the semi-final was the choice between Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Stoinis. And while Labuschagne only managed a stodgy 18 from 31 balls against South Africa, he seems likely to retain his place with Australia going in with their strongest possible batting line-up.
India: Sharma (c), Gill, Kohli, Iyer, Rahul (wk), S Yadav, Jadeja, Bumrah, Shami, K Yadav, Siraj
Australia: Head, Warner, Marsh, Smith, Labuschagne, Maxwell, Inglis (wk), Starc, Cummins (c), Zampa, Hazlewood
What They Said
Former India all-rounder and coach Ravi Shastri on Sunday’s final
“They [India] are playing at home, and it’s a very experienced side. They don’t need to do anything different. They should be holding that cup very soon. They just need to be composed and calm, handling and soaking in the pressure. You don’t want to be excited just because it’s a final. You know what your roles are, and the good thing is this team doesn’t depend on one or two players. There are eight or nine players performing game after game, so that’s a brilliant sign.”
Australia bowler Josh Hazlewood on what he learned from their previous meeting in the tournament
“We know them inside out, same with them. They’re a quality team, they’ve been on a march the whole tournament, no real weaknesses in their team, so, yeah, looking forward to playing them on Sunday. I guess we saw a few cracks when we played them in Chennai chasing a small target, we were lucky enough to get a couple early.”
India have conquered all before them in this tournament so far but it’s now crunch time. They carry the hopes of a nation desperate for World Cup success, with prime minister Narendra Modi set to be in attendance, and the favourites’ tag weighing heavy around their neck. Australia can go in relatively stress free and that might just prove crucial. The Aussies have a knack of winning when it really matters and I think they might just edge it.
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