India's head coach Rahul Dravid inspects the pitch during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 final match between India and Australia, at the Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad, Saturday. (Image: PTI)
Ahmedabad: The barging Blue Machine looks unstoppable. The Yellow Submarine plots to sling a spanner in the works. It’s the World Cup final, the stakes are high. Sparks are bound to fly when India and Australia clash at the 1,32,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium here on a Super Sunday.
The title round has lived up to its billing with the heavyweights squaring up at the world’s largest cricket venue for the coveted trophy, which they have wrested seven times between them. Australia are five-time champions while India will look to add a third title to their triumphs in 1983 and 2011.
They are literally on a roll, having smashed everything in sight. An all-win record from the 10 matches played so far would do the Blues’ confidence a world of good. On the other hand, the Aussies have bounced back brilliantly with eight wins in a row since hitting rock bottom of the 10-team table after losing their first two matches of the tournament.
Both sides have done well at the venue, defeating their respective arch-rivals comfortably — Australia beat England by 33 runs after piling 286 while India powered past Pakistan by seven wickets — in the league stage.
India will feature in a World Cup final for the fourth time while Australia will be playing their eighth title game. The Aussies have lost two finals — to the West Indies in 1975 and Sri Lanka in 1996. India went down in just one, to Australia in 2003, and will hope they are second time lucky.
The way they’re playing, Rohit Sharma & Co. may not need all the luck but the toss could be crucial. Batting first and scoring big should take a lot of pressure off them in the all-or-nothing encounter.
Talking of runs, India have got plenty of them. In fact three batsmen — tournament leader Virat Kohli (711), Rohit Sharma (550) and Shreyas Iyer (526) — have scored 500-plus in the current edition. K. L. Rahul is not far behind with 386 from nine innings at an impressive average of 77.20 with Shubman Gill at 350 runs at 50 per innings. That certainly points to a power-packed batting line-up.
The bowling attack looks loaded too. Mohammed Shami is the Cup’s leading wicket taker with 23, including the 7 for 57 against New Zealand in the semifinal in Mumbai, and is followed by Jasprit Bumrah (18), Ravindra Jadeja (16) and Kuldeep Yadav (15) and Mohammed Siraj (13).
For Australia, the top order of David Warner (528 runs), Mitchell Marsh (426) and Glenn Maxwell (398) have been in the thick of things when it comes to batting with Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head playing the support cast.
On the bowling front, leg-spinner Adam Zampa leads the team chart with 22 wickets, one short of tournament leader Shami. Pacers Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and captain Pat Cummins have been handy for the Kangaroos and go toe-to-toe with Indian bowlers on paper.
However, India beat Australia by four wickets in their tournament opener in Chennai. They will be desperate to wrap up the campaign with a similar result in Ahmedabad.