New Delhi [India]: Australia will be locking horns against India in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday (November 19). The mighty Aussies did their country proud by beating India in a one-sided final of the tournament back in 2003, but this time, the challenge will be a lot more difficult.
Men in Blue have ticked all the boxes in the tournament. With a hard-hitting top-order, middle-order offering a mix of aggression and stability, a pace attack that seems to be doing some insane tricks on almost every ball and spin bowlers who choke world-class batters with their flight and turn, India has it all.
Aussies started off the tournament in a shaky manner, with heavy losses to India and South Africa, two of its biggest rivals. But since then, the Aussies have bounced back to win eight games successively and are a chapter away from completing yet another tale of resilience, aggression and domination. These traits have defined the ‘Kangaroos’ which have soared high in the skies for the majority of their cricket history.
To pull off their sixth World Cup title win in front of a packed Indian crowd, these are the players who will need to be at their best:
The left-handed opener is the biggest threat to the Indian bowling line-up. Unlike an older, more responsible partner David Warner, this youngster carries no baggage of the past. His aggressive, free-flowing cricket is the exact replica of Indian skipper Rohit Sharma.
Head started off the tournament with a 67-ball century against New Zealand. After some bad outings, he fired an aggressive 62 off 48 balls against South Africa that largely reduced the efforts of valiant Proteas to waste. He has 192 runs in five matches so far with a strike rate of over 139. No matter how inconsistent he is, Head cannot be ruled out from firing on big stages as he has done in the past.
The veteran opener is most likely playing his last ODI World Cup at the age of 37 and unleashing the vintage, heavy-hitting Warner in the finals will be his aim as it could single-handedly guide Australia to their sixth title.
Age is no bar for the opener as he has smashed 528 runs in 10 matches at an average of over 52, with two centuries and two fifties. His best score is 163 against Pakistan. A match-winning ton in his last World Cup match will be the best way to go out for perhaps the best all-format batter produced by Australia.
The all-rounder had a terrible start to the ODI World Cup with a string of low scores. But turned it around by smashing a 40-ball century against Netherlands, the fastest-ever in tournament history. Then later against Afghanistan, when the Asian side had five-time champions struggling at 91/7 during a run-chase of 292, Maxwell exposed wide open the gulf of championship titles, inexperience and champion mentality that separated both the teams with an instant classic knock. Battling cramps and heat, he single-handedly won Australia the game with 201* in 128 balls.
Maxwell has struggled against Indian spinners this year. But overall, he is considered as one of the best players of spin. With his spin-playing expertise and heavy confidence by his side, Maxwell will be Australia’s biggest trump card against Indian spinners in middle overs. He can deliver some valuable overs of spin himself against a side which has at times, struggled on spin-friendly surfaces.
The ‘World Cup Starc’ did not really turn up this year. With his wicket-taking streak in the World Cup broken and tally reading 13 wickets in nine matches, Indians batters would be looking to take advantage of the mental struggles that Starc might have faced after an underwhelming tournament.
But flashes of Starc’s big match powers were witnessed in the semis against South Africa, where a three-wicket haul set South Africans completely backwards in the match. Proteas were left incapable of scoring against him in the powerplay. It would not be surprising that Starc completely peaks against India and becomes a menacing presence on the crease.
The Australian skipper leads from the front. He is known as someone who peaks at the right time. Cummins has taken 13 wickets in 10 World Cup matches so far and delivered some calm, much-needed cameos with the bat during tense run-chases. If India gets him while bowling, Cummins could get them with his bat or vice-versa. With Cummins also being a great leader as well, there is no way to keep him out of action.
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc.