Australia silence a nation as India post modest target in World Cup final

19 November 2023 - 15:05
By Stuart Hess
Australia's Pat Cummins celebrates after taking the wicket of India's Virat Kohli in the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup final at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, on Sunday.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave Australia's Pat Cummins celebrates after taking the wicket of India's Virat Kohli in the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup final at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, on Sunday.

The silence — cold, deathly, depressing. When it’s more than 100,000 people falling silent, it’s downright eerie. That’s what greeted Virat Kohli as he walked off the Narendra Modi Stadium field on Sunday.

The only noise was that of the whooping Australian players. Kohli had just chopped a short ball from Australian captain Pat Cummins onto his stumps in the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup final in Ahmedabad on Sunday and the disbelief was palpable.

India posted just 240, losing the final wicket in the last over, a total that seems at least 30 runs short of par.

Not since Sachin Tendulkar in 2011 has one player been as dominant at a World Cup as Kohli has been here. From numerous interviews for broadcaster StarSports, the television ads, the runs, the wicket and meeting David Beckham, it has felt like Virat’s world, and the rest are just living in it.

And then the silence.

Again, as they were in the semifinal against South Africa, Australia were magnificent. Pat Cummins shocked all and sundry when he chose to bowl on a dry surface in front of a sea of blue shirts stirred into a frenzy.

Cummins was counting on dew in the evening, to speed up the pace off the pitch and also wanted to deny India the opportunity of using their two spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, in conditions that would have suited them.

But Cummins also needed his bowlers and fielders to be precise and aggressive as they had been in the opening passage of the semifinal in Kolkata.

For a brief period that wasn’t the case as Rohit Sharma launched a customary blitz that might have rattled lesser teams.

The Indian captain brought the noise with a blistering innings of 47 off 31 balls that included four fours and three sixes. It was a typically selfless effort, in keeping with how Rohit has played the entire tournament, but for once with India up against an attack that had constructed excellent plans and then executed those with unerring accuracy.

Rohit’s dismissal wasn’t the result of one of those plans. He’d belted Glenn Maxwell for six over long-on and then four through the covers and, wanting to keep his foot on Australia throats, charged the part-time off-spinner again.

The ball skewed up off the outer half of his bat flying in the direction of deep cover. Travis Head had sprinted back, and then dived full length with the ball falling over his left shoulder and held on to a superb catch.

Still, India had Kohli and the start Rohit had provided, like it did in their semifinal against New Zealand, created leeway for him to build his innings.

But Cummins claimed a crucial wicket when he induced a "nothing" shot from Shreyas Iyer and with three wickets down in the 11th over, India were forced to play for time.

Though Kohli did that by keeping the scoreboard ticking with singles, KL Rahul battled against the short-ball plan the Australians employed. He ate up between three and four balls an over, bringing the home side’s scoring rate to a virtual standstill.

With Kohli there, however, India could always trust he would create rhythm in the innings. He’s had a magnificent World Cup, scoring five 100s and five 50s. With him at the crease the rest of the Indian batting has shone too.

However, Australia maintained control through excellent use of the short ball and changes of pace on a surface that assisted that kind of variation.

Kohli’s dismissal resulted from a tentative push at a delivery from Cummins with an angled bat, with the ball deflecting onto his stumps after he’d scored 54.

Rahul’s struggles are reflected in the fact that he struck just one boundary in his 107-ball innings, in which he scored 66. His careful attempt to control the innings was too circumspect.

Besides the bowling, Australia’s ground fielding was again of the highest quality. David Warner cut off 15 runs by himself, diving after balls on the boundary. After hitting 12 boundaries in the opening power play, India managed just four in the next 40 overs.

Cummins was superb, taking 2/34 in 10 overs, while Starc — who had struggled for rhythm for most of the tournament — picked up 3/54, got the ball to reverse swing in the latter stages and accounted for Rahul with one such delivery.