Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 | Last Update : 05:21 PM IST

  Opinion   Edit  17 Nov 2023  AA Edit | Cup of glory calls India, Oz: May the best team drink it!

AA Edit | Cup of glory calls India, Oz: May the best team drink it!

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Nov 18, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Nov 18, 2023, 12:05 am IST

There was little doubt that India, two-time champion, was the better performing team in progressing to Sunday’s final with Australia

Australia's captain Pat Cummins plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 second semi-final match between South Africa and Australia, at the Eden Gardens Stadium, in Kolkata, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)
 Australia's captain Pat Cummins plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 second semi-final match between South Africa and Australia, at the Eden Gardens Stadium, in Kolkata, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

Team India, on a roll in an unprecedented 10 wins on the trot, are within striking distance of claiming cricket’s ODI World Cup. Standing in their way to conquering the summit of achievement and warming the cockles of a billion fans are the Australians, familiar foes who had dashed India’s hopes of winning the World Test Championship last summer.

There was little doubt that India, two-time champion, was the better performing team in progressing to Sunday’s final with Australia, huffing and puffing its way there after a mild challenge in a semi-final from South Africa, condemned in history as the chokers of the game. 

It is on the cards then that Team India is primed to add a coveted trophy, except that cricket’s glorious uncertainties can come into play at any time. Facing them are five-time champions in seven final appearances thus far as opposed to India’s two triumphs on three occasions, the last having come in 2003, in defeat at the hands of Australia.

What engenders greater hope regarding the final is that this is one Indian team that has ticked all the boxes, its collective strength redoubled by the meanest bowling attack in the history of India in limited-overs cricket. If the seamers Shami, Bumrah and Siraj don’t rattle the opposition with deceptively alarming swing and seam movement, the spinners are choking the challengers in the middle overs.

Batting clout was always India’s forte but what is making the difference now is this new “Ro-hitball” strategy in which the captain Rohit Sharma takes an ultra-aggressive approach, unmindful of personal batting landmarks in the cause of kickstarting a team initiative towards pulverising the opponents and batting them out of a match. 

Sharma is being backed ably by partner Shubman Gill and a smooth purring middle order in which the record-breaking Virat Kohli, known for his intensity and hunger for runs, surpassed Sachin Tendulkar’s collection of 49 ODI centuries, a free striking Shreyas Iyer and a remodelled K.L. Rahul, proving as refreshingly adept with the bat as with the wicket-keeper’s gloves and shrewdness in making crucial DRS calls.

It is this rare combination of batting freedom towards the sustained aggression required in white ball cricket and bowlers looking for wickets in a relentless attack on the stumps, backed by higher levels of application in fielding that has given this team its look of invincibility. Of course, they must prove it in the final to attain desideratum in a cup final triumph that is the dream of countless fans.

The Australians, who had a diffident start and played some amazing cricket later, as in Glenn Maxwell’s scarcely believable double century in the chase, on one leg as it were, showed there is steel in their temperament when it comes to big games. They will be doughty opponents to be feared in a summit clash as they have been there more often than anyone else.

The intensity of the cricket in the final is bound to be far higher. What could prove crucial is which team can keep their collective nerve better in the face of an ultimate do-or-die challenge of sport. May the better team win is almost a cliché in this situation considering the advantage lies with India on its home turf with one lakh fans egging them on at the Narendra Modi stadium.

Tags: icc world cup, australian team, team india