Australia underline big-match credentials with stunning India takedown
India dominate the business side of global cricket by virtually every metric but Australia showed commercial clout counts for little when teams battle on the game's biggest stage.
With a pitch offering little comfort for pace bowlers and terraces packed with blue-clad fans, Sunday's 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup final could not have been better set up for the hosts to emerge unbeaten champions.
Instead, Australia, led by a Travis Head century and their brilliant trio of quicks, humbled India and their batting riches in a dominant six-wicket win that may rank the finest of their six World Cup triumphs.
Having claimed the World Test Championship in June, Pat Cummins's team have shown greatness across formats and will no doubt fancy completing a sweep of the game's biggest prizes at next year's T20 World Cup in the US and West Indies.
Australia's 'golden era' under captains Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, when they won three one-day World Cups in succession from 1999-2007, has cast a long shadow over the teams that followed.
But some feel Cummins's squad is at least worthy of comparison.
“They've won a T20 World Cup, they're the world Test champions and now they're the World Cup winners in India,” former England captain Michael Vaughan said on BBC Test Match Special.
“This group now needs to be talked about in a similar vein.”
As a spectacle, the final in Ahmedabad could not hold a candle to the tied 2019 classic in which England edged New Zealand on boundary count.
Australia, however, do not do nail-biters. Their opponents in finals are not so much beaten as remorselessly crushed by technical brilliance and consummate execution.
Since losing the 1996 final to Sri Lanka, Australia have walloped every team they have faced in the decider, starting with an eight-wicket thrashing of Pakistan in 1999.
India were embarrassed in a 125-run defeat in the 2003 final, Sri Lanka hammered by 53 runs in the rain-hit 2007 decider, and in 2015 New Zealand crashed to a seven-wicket loss at a heaving Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Six years later, Australia added their first T20 World Cup title to the mix, cruising past New Zealand in the Dubai final.
With Australia's pedigree of big-match success, Cummins gave short shrift to the idea of his team being underdogs before Sunday's final.
“At least a dozen of the 15 have won a World Cup and know what it takes,” he said of his squad.
"[They] won't be afraid to go out there and be brave, take the game on.”
And so it proved.
Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood took seven wickets between them, choking the life out of an Indian batting line-up that had dominated the tournament.
Already ranked among the best Australian pace attacks, the trio leave India with reputations further enhanced.
Australia's fielding was in the crosshairs earlier in the tournament with a series of dropped catches but on Sunday they gave nothing away, holding India without a boundary for an hour at one point.
Cummins also departs with doubts about his captaincy banished.
The Test skipper entered the World Cup having led the ODI side only a handful of times but has now joined Waugh, Ponting and Allan Border as Australia's title-winning captains.
In Sunday's final, his gutsy decision to field first, his decisive bowling changes and his taking of Virat Kohli's wicket set the tone for a team who thrives when the stakes are highest.
“I thought his leadership actually has got better and better right through the tournament,” Ponting said on Sky Sports.
“So he thoroughly deserves every plaudit that comes his way as far as leadership is concerned.”