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Australia 101: How to win a final


‘You’ve just dropped the World Cup.’ Alleged Steve Waugh, who famously told Herschelle Gibbs in the 1999 World Cup during the Super Six match against South Africa.

Travis Head certainly got hold of it when he ran back from cover, dived, and held on to send Indian captain Rohit Sharma back in the 10th over in the 2023 final. Glenn Maxwell knew what meant that moment, and he didn’t hide it. Elsewhere, it might have been Rohit doing what he does best – making the most of the power play. But the World Cup final is not the case. And Australia, especially in a World Cup final, is an opposition like no other. What if he held himself back for that ball? What if he had just played five more games?

Permutation, combination, and utter dissolution of opposition. Haven’t the men from Down Under always been such a household name in the world of cricket! Just ask South Africa, their opposition from the penultimate game. Or the Indian squad from 2003. Because, this one also brought back the feeling of ‘all is lost’. The feeling that an entire nation was familiar with – whenever Sachin Tendulkar walked back to the pavilion early (which also happened in the 2003 final).

Pat Cummins might have saved the collective 1.4 billion sighs when he won the toss but chose to bowl. The invincible batting of the Men in Blue, the likes of Sharma and Virat Kohli being feared in bowling circles, no less – capable of winning it single-handedly, the team’s perfection in the tournament so far… score at the party on Sunday.

If only!

After all, sport needs its adjectives – tears, leading edge of peace, nail, et al. It seemed that there was nothing he could do wrong on this day. Be it the position of the pitch, the rotation of the bowlers, ensuring that the pressure was always on India, or finally showing all semblance of calmness to a lakh-plus crowd (when it took Kohli out of the proceedings), he was embodying the spirit. of a true Aussie skipper. Hardly gave an inch throughout the Indian innings. Men too. They showed again what Australian fielding is all about. The frustration that the Indian batsmen would feel at the number of shot boundaries would surely be negated by the Aussie’s strong will or perish. Didn’t David Warner seem ubiquitous? At the cover, on the border; where the hosts met was an Australian gift. If the Australians were the lesson in ‘what to do in the World Cup final’, the Indians all showed ‘what not to do in the World Cup final’. While the likes of Subhman Gill and Shreyas Iyer seemed to misplace their Batting 101 book, Mitchell Starc and Cummins sent them back with Bowling 101. Remember the old Indian custom of ‘doobte ko tinke ka sahára’? The Indian supporters did. Even the last boundary from Mohammad Siraj was thrown as an occasion to rejoice. So, there weren’t many – just four in the last 40 overs compared to 12 in the first 10. A billion-plus hopes still said 240 was a fighting total in a final. Maybe the Indian bowlers could… But when have Indian winning tunes been played because of the bowling ability under pressure? With a large amount to protect, the script is different. This was 240! What if Australia had batted first instead? India may have repeated the Chennai script. But it was, after all, a story of what he wanted for India.

What if the real Kohli had turned up for the match? The one who inspired soliloquy with his records, the one who made Aussie bowlers check their tongues, and the one who had the most publicity for this tournament. What if the Indian tail had only got more batting practice in the previous matches? What if India had solved its No. 1 mystery? 4 well on time?

Or most of all – what if Sharma had just taken a leaf out of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s certain book and made his wicket count when it mattered most? Well, the 2011 World Cup winning skipper was not called ‘Captain Cool’ for nothing. What if Kohli or Gill had taken Warner off the first ball instead of letting him race to the boundary between them? Slides! They were parking at slots.

And then there were those futile dives against the Aussie boundaries. The Indian fielding specialty! Australia’s leadership took their lead again when they lost three quicks, they didn’t lose momentum like their opposition did. They were 47/3, courtesy of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami’s bid to fight. But when it comes to Australia, there are nerves to go. Always was. Except for Clive Lloyd’s mighty West Indians in 1975 and the Sri Lankan group that changed cricket’s totals in 1996, nobody could get the better of them in the final round. So, not letting all the efforts go in vain at the finish line is Australia 101.

With the able assistance of Marnus Labuschagne, the Chief ensured that he had captured the World Cup.

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