Ahmedabad, November 18
Pat Cummins, the Australian captain, wishes to silence the crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium in the final of the World Cup on Sunday. If any team can silence 1.3 lakh people in the world’s biggest stadium, it’s Australia.
Silences have been few and far between, however, during India’s campaign — they have compiled a perfect record of 10/10. India’s dominance has been intimidating. When they’ve bowled first, they’ve won by an average six wickets, with almost 11 overs to spare; when they’ve batted first, they’ve won by an average margin of 175 runs. The closest shave they’ve had was in the semifinal — when the Wankhede Stadium crowd did become silent for 25 overs during New Zealand’s chase — though they still won by 70 runs.
The team is working like a perfect machine, with every player in form. The injury to Hardik Pandya in the fourth match in Pune upset the balance, but it was a blessing in disguise — it brought in fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who has tormented batsmen with his unerring line and length. He’s picked up 23 wickets at an incredible average of 9.13. On top of the batters’ list is, of course, Virat Kohli, the man of the moment, with 711 runs. It’s easy to believe that this is his tournament, after two failures — as captain in 2019, vice-captain in 2015. As a 22-year-old, he had won the winners’ medal in his first World Cup in 2011; at 35, there’s a sense of inevitability about him winning a second medal in probably his final World Cup.
Rohit Sharma, who regrets to this day his absence from the 2011 team, was his usual laidback self on Saturday. He said he’s shaped the team in his philosophy of playing fearlessly, damn the consequences. He didn’t say it would be just “just another game”, as sportspersons often say; he said the team would have to remain calm. The focus would be “on their work for the team, rather than thinking this is the biggest moment of my life”, he said, adding: “Of course it is, there is no doubt. You can’t hide from that. But it’s important to remain calm because if you are calm, you can play your role well.” At the world’s biggest stadium, named after the Prime Minister himself, and in his political fortress, the game can’t be considered just a game — it acquires deep political salience.
On form, it’s difficult to see India losing; but after two losses, Australia have strung together a sequence of eight wins. Cummins’s team is the second-best in the tournament, and he’s desperate to be the best and add to Australia’s five World Cup titles “There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent, and that’s the aim for us tomorrow,” the captain said, but it’s difficult to imagine 1.3 lakh people going silent on Sunday night.
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