Australia gatecrashed India’s party and left the cricket-obsessed country in a daze.
More that a billion Indian fans are still walking around like zombies and looking for answers as to how their team was totally dominated by the Aussies in the final of the World Cup.
It’s the biggest prize in the sport and the finale was played in the game’s largest facility — the 132,000-seat Narendra Modi Stadium — with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi all geared up to present the trophy to skipper Rohit Sharma.
But the Waltzing Matildas side-stepped their way to a totally unexpected six-wicket triumph to shatter Modi and India’s dream of lifting the trophy.
It was Australia’s sixth title in the eight World Cups it has contested and the result extended India’s drought in global tournaments. India remains stuck on two, the first coming in 1983 after Kapil Dev’s squad pulled an equally shocking result against the mighty West Indies, and in 2011 skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni made sure the home team would not fall victim to a tough Sri Lanka.
Sharma, his squad and all of India were odds-on favourites to breeze through to the most important trophy in the sport after storming into the final with 10 straight victories. The Aussies began their quest by losing their first two encounters, were written off by their fans and even their press, who believed they would be dealt a similar fate as their highly favoured World Cup rugby counterparts — the Wallabies — who were dispatched home early.
But the Aussies, under the leadership of Pat Cummins, then caught fire to stay alive after eking out a victory from the depths of defeat to nip Afghanistan, thanks to a double century by Glenn Maxwell.
While there were other mighty contributions with the bat from David Warner, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh, it is Cummins who is garnering headlines for his leadership.
His decision to bowl first in Ahmedabad was pure genius and his decision to rotate his bowlers, especially in the middle overs, worked out brilliantly.
India was dismissed for 240 with skipper Rohit Sharma smashing a quickfire 47 (three sixes and four fours), Virat Kohli making 54 and KL Rahul 66.
The rest were no match for Aussie speedsters Mitchell Starc (three for 55), Josh Hazlewood (two for 60) and Cummins (two for 34).
In fact, after that blazing start, India was restricted to just four boundaries from overs 11 to 50, an unbelievable statistic for a powerful Indian batting lineup.
The Aussies struggled initially at 47 for three, but then Head made a superb 137 and received good support from Marnus Labuschagne, who hit 58 in a stand of 192 to end India’s dreams for six-wicket triumph.
“I think it is the pinnacle of international cricket,’’ said an elated Cummins, who was a member of Australia’s winning squad in 2015. “You only get a shot at it every four years, even if you have a 10-year career you might get two chances at it. The whole cricket world stops with this World Cup.”
Cummins also had the better of India to win the World Test championship earlier this year and then, against all expectations, he returned home from England with the Ashes. Though this was his crowning moment.
“Yeah, it’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s been pretty much through the whole Aussie winter away overseas playing but we’ve had a lot of success and this pips it all, this is at the top of the mountain.”
Cummins also gets credit for sticking with Head, who missed the first five games with a fractured hand. Cummins did not blink and reserved Head’s place for him and he delivered.
India coach Rahul Dravid, formerly one of the country’s greatest batsmen, appeared as mystified as anyone at his team’s inability to get over the line.
“I mean, I guess if I knew the answer, I would say that,” said Dravid, who was appointed coach in 2021 until this World Cup.
Meanwhile, there was some consolation for India as it dominated the World Cup squad picked by a selection committee headed by former West Indies pace ace Ian Bishop.
Australia only had two named in this glittering lineup — and it did not include Cummins or Head. The Aussies were spinner Adam Zampa and all-rounder Maxwell.
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The squad, led by India’s Sharma, included five other Indians — Virat Kohli, fast bowlers Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
The rest were South Africa’s wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock, New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell, fast bowler Dilshan Madushanka of Sri Lanka. South Africa’s pacer Gerald Coetzee who took 20 wickets in the competition was the 12th man.
Sharma’s place in the squad came as no surprise as he set the tone at the top of India’s order and that included 131 versus Afghanistan, 86 against Pakistan and had 40 on all but one occasion.
And star batsman Kohli hit a staggering 765 runs at an average of 95.62, shattering the previous record held by Sachin Tendulkar, who amassed 673 runs during the 2003 edition.
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