Tue. Apr 16th, 2024


Australia are bidding for record-extending sixth World Cup title, with today’s game their eighth appearance in the final

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma (left) and Australian skipper Pat Cummins. — X/@CricCrazyJohns
  • Indian PM expected to attend final match.
  • Kohli enters game as tournament’s leading batsman.
  • Australia bid for record-extending sixth title.

AHMEDABAD: India will carry the hopes of billions of fans in the cricket-crazy country and beyond when the unbeaten hosts face Australia in Sunday’s World Cup final in Ahmedabad.

A showpiece match at the 130,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium — named after the Indian prime minister, who is expected to attend the game — will also feature a pre-match fly-past by the Indian Air Force as well as choreographed displays featuring dozens of dancers and light shows during the innings breaks.

Everything promises to be on a suitably grand scale given India is the economic powerhouse of the game.

But cricket too could well live up to the occasion.

India have won 10 games in a row on their way to the finish of the tournament as they seek a third World Cup title to follow their stunning victory over the West Indies in a 1983 final at Lord’s and a 2011 home triumph sealed with victory against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.

Virat Kohli enters the game as the tournament’s leading batsman with 711 runs and has set a new record of 50 ODI hundreds in a 70-run semi-final win over New Zealand in Mumbai.

That innings saw the star batsman break the mark of 49 ODI centuries he had shared with retired India great Sachin Tendulkar — a childhood hero of Kohli before the duo both featured in India’s victorious 2011 side.

Mohammed Shami, meanwhile, tops the tournament bowling charts with 23 wickets at just 9.13 apiece, despite being left out of the side for the first four games before an injury to Hardik Pandya paved the way for the paceman’s dramatic return.

‘So much pressure’

Yet for all India’s unrivalled financial muscle and wealth of playing talent, it is 10 years since they last won a major international tournament — the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Doubts still linger about whether a talented India team can stand up the strains of a final against a hardened Australia side full of proven big-match performers.

But India captain Rohit Sharma insisted Saturday: “We know how it is outside the environment that we have — the expectations, and the pressure, and the criticism, and everything.”

“Not many have played the finals, but like I said, playing for India is as good as playing any World Cup game because there’s so much pressure. There’s so much expectation.”

The in-form opening batsman added: “Always at the airport, you’re going here and there (hearing) ‘you have to win the World Cup, you have to score runs, you have to score 200, you have to take five wickets’.

“It is in your ears all the time. I’ve seen guys starting to wear headphones now so that they can keep the noise out, but it’s nice we have enjoyed our journey thoroughly till now, so just one final push.”

Australia are bidding for a record-extending sixth World Cup title, with Sunday’s game their eighth appearance in the final.

Their team is set to include several survivors from a 2015 World Cup final win over New Zealand in Melbourne, including opener David Warner, star batsman Steve Smith, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and new-ball bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

“The good thing is we’ve got guys that won it in 2015,” said Australia captain Pat Cummins, who was a squad member in 2015 as was teammate Mitchell Marsh.

“We know that feeling and won’t be afraid to go out there and be brave and take the game on.”

Australia lost their opening two matches of the tournament, going down by six wickets against India and then suffering a huge 134-run defeat by South Africa.

But they have since won eight games in a row and, worryingly for India, had their revenge over South Africa with a tense three wicket-win in a Kolkata semi-final where Cummins kept his cool in a nervy run-chase.

“There have been no huge wins,” added Cummins. “We’ve had to fight for every win, but we’ve found a way to win.”



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