Australia wins the ODI World Cup for the sixth time after beating India by six wickets in the final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad
Australia were virtually written off after losing the first two matches of the tournament. Doubts were even raised as to whether skipper Pat Cummins deserved a place in the ODI side. If the idea was to somehow push the champions to win a sixth ODI World Cup, it worked.
They did not lose another match in the tournament. Their ninth win on the trot came in Sunday’s final against home team India, who were themselves on an unbeaten run in the tournament.
Cummins hasn’t put a foot wrong as a leader. He ignored the old-timers’ refrain of batting first in a big game and opted to bowl after winning the toss. The vaunted Indian batsman unraveled on a sticky wicket under the sun, just like in previous matches on this ground.
The Australian skipper followed up his decision to bowl first by bravely involving part-time off-spinner Glenn Maxwell in the powerplay when Rohit Sharma was in attack. The Indian skipper overreached and was killed.
Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer’s failures brought together Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, the same pair who saved India in their tournament opener against Australia on October 8 in Chennai. But then they were chasing a small total, while here they had to set a goal.
An overly cautious approach played into Cummins’ hands. He got Kohli with a short ball and the Indian innings reached 240.
Australia lost three early wickets to the Indian new ball attack of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. But then batting conditions eased as the evening progressed and the dew descended. When the Narendra Modi Stadium curator put down an ill-prepared wicket to help the Indian spinners, it backfired. The toss became such a big factor because batting first was relatively so much harder on that wicket.
Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne enjoyed the advantage as they batted later in the evening to gallop to victory with a 192-run partnership. They both defeated Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, but India had no slip for the spinners. This was unusually defensive against Sharma, especially in a situation where containment could not win the match for India.
Cummins’ finest hour
When the hour comes, the man comes. And that was Cummins whose leadership isn’t recognized enough. “I like it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong.” That could very well be attributed to Cummins, although the quote is from former baseball star Derek Jeter.
Cummins came into this World Cup with captaincy in just four ODIs to his name. He even candidly admitted that he was still coming to grips with the nuances of the format. Commenters seized on this comment as an indicator of lack of trust.
Criticism of Cummins increased after Australia lost their first two matches against India and South Africa. Former captain Michael Clarke even claimed on an Australian radio program that he had heard the skipper would be dropped from the side before the third match. But Cummins not only took the field but also played a crucial role in turning the game around against Sri Lanka.
That set Australia on course for a nine-match winning run through to the final, overcoming all challenges in different circumstances and circumstances. So Cummins once again showed the folly of writing him off. Earlier this year, he had similarly answered questions about the wisdom of naming a fast bowler as captain by winning the World Test Championship final against India.
His ODI captaincy improved during the tournament. His introduction of part-time off-spinner Travis Head to entice Heinrich Klaasen into dropping his guard was the turning point in the semi-final against South Africa. And in the final, the inclusion of Maxwell in the powerplay took the wind out of India’s sails.
Australia is a deserving champion, where courageous team selection plays an important role. Travis Head was part of the World Cup squad before he recovered from a broken hand. He did not participate in the World Cup until October 28 in Australia’s sixth match against New Zealand in Dharamsala. His match-winning century there cemented Australia’s decision. And he was the player of the final, who turned the game around with a glorious catch to dismiss the Indian captain, and then bowled out India by scoring 137 in 120 balls.
Australia’s champion mentality showed at several points in the tournament when the going got tough. None more so than Glenn Maxwell’s unbeaten double century when he saved Australia from 91/7 in a chase of nearly 300 against Afghanistan in Mumbai on November 7. Half of those runs were scored on one leg as I battled cramps. It was a statement about the Australian spirit without words.
What next for India? Coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma can hold their heads high as they have won 10 out of 11 World Cup matches, one more than Australia, even if that hasn’t won them the trophy. Unfortunately, their loss came in the end.
Even if they had done it tactically wrong to leave out bowler Mohammed Shami in the first half of the tournament, the strength of the unit was such that they still won all their league matches. They probably missed a trick by not playing off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in place of Mohammed Siraj in the final on a dry, spin-friendly track. But those are comments for another day, when a deeper analysis is made of the Indian selection process.
Rohit Sharma led by example, hitting up front with little regard for personal goals. Indian stars have sometimes succumbed to selfish play for individual records, but Sharma made a strong statement by always putting team requirements first.
Looking ahead, it is likely that stalwart Sharma and Kohli will have played their last ODI World Cup. Probably the same can be said of the highest wicket-taker in the 2023 World Cup, Shami. But India can draw on a solid core of world-renowned batsmen and bowlers. And the IPL will produce new stars every year.
For now, Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni remain the only captains with the unique distinction of winning World Cups for India.
Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru.