It has been nothing short of a Hollywood blockbuster script for Team India as they get ready to face the mighty Australians in the 2023 Cricket World Cup final, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Flight fares have skyrocketed in direct proportion to the excitement, and so have hotel tariffs, as fans flock to Gujarat’s capital for the title showdown. Can India bring an end to their 12-year-long wait for an ICC title? Or Will the Australians extend their record-breaking run to six world titles?
First things first, what will be India’s playing XI in the final? They have played with an unchanged XI for six consecutive matches. They have had very little option since Hardik Pandya got injured, to be honest. India trusted their speciallist batters to score the runs and best bowlers to take the wickets, simple isn’t it? It sure is, when you are winning. But what do you do in a World Cup final?
Yes, India have been the best team of the touranment but they will up against a team that knows how to win tournaments. Will India go with the winning combination? Or will the conditions in Ahmedabad and a pattern in the Australian side force captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid to spring in a known surprise?
These two names are more important than ever Indian cricket. And no one would want to be in their shoes the night before the World Cup final.
When asked about India’s XI in the press conference, Rohit seemed pretty relaxed but he also kept the mystery alive. Deep down, he knows, the decision could have wider ramifications.
Record-breaking Virat Kohli
The hosts are the only unbeaten team in this tournament and have done it in style. In all their matches, Rohit Sharma and Co. have outplayed their opponents in all departments. In batting, Virat Kohli leads the overall run chart with 711 runs in 10 matches, with three tons and six half-centuries. The former captain’s fitness has been the best and he also overtook Sachin Tendulkar (49) to become the batter with the most ODI tons (50) in history. He achieved the feat in India’s victory against New Zealand in their semi-final clash.
Meanwhile, in the bowling department, Mohammed Shami has been at his destructive best. The veteran pacer bagged a seven-wicket haul in the semi-finals, which saw him go on the top of the overall wickets chart, with 23 scalps in only six games. Australia’s Adam Zampa is in second place with 22 dismissals but in 10 matches.
Raining centuries for top-order and middle-order
India will be expected to use the same playing XI that they utilised against New Zealand in the semi-finals. Captain Rohit and Shubman Gill will open for the hosts and will be looking to make an impact. Rohit’s captaincy has been crucial for Team India, especially with his field selection. His knack for sending bowlers at the right moment has won over fans. Meanwhile, he has also made an impact with the bat and is fifth in the overall run chart. He is India’s second-highest run-scorer with 550 runs in 10 matches, along with a ton and three fifties. Ahead of the World Cup, Gill was in better form than his opening partner, but a bout of dengue saw him start the campaign low on fitness. During the semifinals, he smacked 80 off 66 balls and will be looking to post a hundred in the title clash.
Kohli will bat at No. 3, a position from where he has destroyed teams in this tournament. The former captain looks to be playing more free-flowing cricket in this tournament and will be seeking his second ODI World Cup title, having clinched it earlier in 2011. He has already overtaken Sachin as the batter with most ODI tons, another century won’t be a surprise for him! The ever-reliant Shreyas Iyer has finally silenced his critics, and will bat at no. 4. He got his second ton in the semis, hammering 105 off 107 deliveries, packed with four fours and eight sixes. It was also his second century in this World Cup and he has already amassed 526 runs in 10 matches. Ahead of the World Cup, Iyer wasn’t at the best of form, having missed out on plenty of action due to injury issues. He also began the tournament on a poor note, but the management kept their trust in him and he repaid their faith with some sensational shots during this campaign.
Just like Iyer, KL Rahul has also silenced his critics during this unbeaten run for India. Since Rishabh Pant’s freak car accident, fans knew that the wicketkeeping responsibility would fall on Rahul. We obviously had Sanju Samson playing an occasional ODI or T20I, but Rahul was always Rohit’s first-choice. He has been consistent for India in this tournament, and has been a reliable presence in the middle order and also has a ton in this campaign. Suryakumar Yadav will bat at no. 6 and if the batters higher up perform like how they have been doing, then he will just need to add some quick boundaries in the death overs.
Mohammed Shami in destruction mode
Ravindra Jadeja will bat at no. 7 and hasn’t really had to contribute with the bat. But he can come in handy when required, especially in the death overs or during a run chase when boundaries are required in a consistent manner. His spin abilities will also be key for Rohit in tight situations, and he has proved his mettle in taking key wickets.
The tailenders will consist of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj. Shami only came into the squad after Hardik Pandya’s injury, and since then has taken 23 wickets at 9.13, which is also the highest in this tournament, at an economy rate of 5.01. He has taken three five-wicket hauls and one four-wicket haul. His line and length has been inch-perfect, and his yorkers have been totally feared. Before his arrival, India had a good pace attack, and at his entrance, they became the best. The Ahmedabad pitch is a used deck, and it could perfectly suit the Gujarat Titans star.
R Ashwin in?
There are reports that R Ashwin could be Rohit’s trump card for the final, and he was also seen at the nets during the optional session on Friday. The session was more or less focussed on Rohit’s batting, where he took on a local leg-spinner and left-arm spinner. Meanwhile, Jadeja had two sessions, one which included death-over batting. Ashwin was also heavily involved, and was seen having a batting session too. If he is included, he could replace Siraj, who has lost some form lately. The Aussies have two left-handed openers in Travis Head and David Warner. He also has a good record against Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.
India’s predicted XI vs Australia in World Cup final-
Openers: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill
Top-order and middle-order: Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Suryakumar Yadav
All-rounder: Ravindra Jadeja
Bowlers: Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj