New Delhi [India]: A lot of nostalgia will be in the air when India takes to the field for their ICC Cricket World Cup final against Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
After registering a heavy loss to Aussies 20 years back in a title clash in South Africa, Men in Blue will be aiming to avenge that painful memory and write another glorious chapter of its cricket history with their third 50-over World Cup title win, that too at home.
So far in the tournament, India has done the majority of things right. Their top order has fired runs with an attacking intent that puts the opponent on the back in the starting itself. The middle-order offers a mix of aggression and stability that not a lot of teams have brought in this tournament. The pace attack has been fiery throughout the tournament while spinners have been bamboozling and hard to read.
Except for a few moments where India’s top order gave away or certain bowlers looked off-colour, Team India maintained its dominance and the result is, 10 wins in 10 games. To match Australia’s 11-match winning streak of the 2003 tournament, here are some players who will have to be at their best:
The Indian skipper has emerged as a synonym for positivity and aggression in this tournament. With his clean sixes and effortless boundaries in the powerplay, he destroys the morale of bowlers in the first 10 overs itself. His quick starts always help the batters coming after him take their time, settle on the crease and dominate. In 10 matches, Rohit has scored 550 runs at an average of 55.00, with one century and three fifties. He has struck his runs at a strike rate of over 124, which is one of the best in the tournament.
Rohit also has a fantastic ODI record against Australia. In 44 ODIs against Aussies, he has scored 2,332 runs at an average of 58.30, with eight centuries and nine fifties. His best score is 209.
Virat is the tournament’s leading run-scorer so far. In 10 matches, he has scored 711 runs at an average of over 101, with three centuries and five fifties. He now has the most runs in a single World Cup edition and is also the only player to have smashed 50 ODI centuries. With these two records and an undefeated streak under his belt, Virat’s morale will surely be high.
Virat often saves his best for games against Australia and for big clashes. In 48 clashes against Aussies, he has scored 2,313 runs at an average of 53.79, with eight centuries and 13 fifties in 46 innings. It would not be surprising if Virat once again takes a giant jump in front of over 1 lakh fans at the stadium after scoring a match-winning century or breaks another record against the mighty Aussies.
Fans have witnessed a new KL Rahul since the Asia Cup this year. Be it a positive body language, a more aggressive, positive intent while batting, sharp wicketkeeping or accuracy in DRS calls, the wicketkeeper-batter is one of India’s most underrated success stories of the tournament.
He has scored 386 runs in 10 matches so far at an average of over 77 and a strike rate of over 98. Rahul has also scored a century in 62 balls, the fastest by an Indian in WC history. He also scored a patient 97* in 115 balls against Australia in India’s campaign opener when India was 2/3 while chasing 200.
KL has been exceptional against Australia in ODIs this year, having posted scores of 75*, 9, 32, 58*, 52, 26 and 97* against the five-time champions this year.
After missing out on the first half of the tournament, Shami set the World Cup on fire with his lethal spells. Having played just six matches, he has taken 23 wickets at an average of 9.13 and a strike rate of 10.91. His best bowling figures of 7/57, also the best by an Indian in World Cups, came against New Zealand in semis. He is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far.
Shami’s seam position, accuracy, yorkers and pace have been a nightmare for opponents this tournament. He has been fantastic against left-handers, having a bowling average of just 4 against them and conceding just 32 runs in 52 balls against them. Eight of his 23 wickets have been from left-handed batters. The pacer could be key in neutralising the threat of aggressive openers David Warner and Travis Head.
Bumrah has been superb in the tournament so far, having taken 18 wickets in 10 wickets at an average of 18.33 and a strike rate of over 27, with best figures of 4/39. Though Bumrah is the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament and Shami looks better statistically, the pressure exerted by Bumrah restricts the opponent’s run flow and allows other bowlers to thrive as well.
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.