By Dr Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*
Cricket is a time killer, and it has many detrimental impacts on productivity too. But it is popular because it is a glorious game of uncertainty. It has linkage with uncertainty and vicissitude, hope/aspirations and frustration of life. When life is uncertain, the man who wins, the man who thinks he can. Australia cricket team proved this again.
As a gruelling night wore on, the Men in Blue found their World Cup dreams in tatters. India’s dream run in the World Cup concluded in despair and despondency. India has to rest content with the World Cups won in 1983 and 2011. In the tournament, India won 10 games on the trot. India dominated and defeated strong team New Zealand in the semifinal. Rohit’s men had stepped in as the favourites to wrest the title. But Australia had other ideas. Australia trounced host India in the final on November 19, 2023 to win the 6th World Cup at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
This was the first time India hosted the tournament entirely by itself. Australia lost their opening two games at the start of World Cup 2023 and then won seven in a row to enter the semifinals. In the semifinal they beat South Africa to face India in final.
The six-wicket triumph reiterated Australia’s prowess and adroitness especially temperament of its players to win in big matches. Australia has won more world cups because Australian cricketer are big match players and do not succumb to pressure. They easily adapt to different conditions better than others. Adaptability is the greatest quality of any individual or team.
On a slow pitch, India mustered 240 in 50 overs. For India as captain Rohit Sharma hit a brisk 47 and Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul scored half-centuries. However, the other batters struggled as the Australians bowled tight lines, fielded with alacrity and kept prising out wickets.
Despite causing some initial bruises on the Aussies, found Pat Cummins and his men cantering home with 241 for four in 43 overs.
Opener Travis Head’s excellent 137 (120b, 15×4, 4×6) proved to be the cornerstone of Australia’s success after David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, and Steve Smith fell early. It was the game’s tipping point but left-handed Head and Marnus Labuschagne stitched a fabulous 192-run partnership for the fourth wicket to ensure Australia stayed ahead.
Australians chose bowling instead of batting first because of the following reasons. First, they were beaten by India while batting first in league phase. Second, India had beaten Pakistan while batting second in that pitch. Third, it is difficult to assess what is a defendable score in this match. Fourth, by trying for big target, India may lose more wickets and ends in scoring less runs. Fifth, in the final of the world cup, India had beaten Sri Lanka by batting second; Sixth, if dew plays it’s role, then spinners will be ineffective and will be easy to chase targets.
Further Australians had done homework and studied our weak points while we have become complacent. Our bowling weakness was exposed against New Zealand and Netherland, but no effort was taken to overcome. Sometimes, we are carried away by success without addressing weakness. We know that Travis Head had batted well against India in test matches in the past and well against spin attacks of South Africa. We did not make any plan against Travis Head.
The coach should have studied the weakness of opponents. However, mainly different behaviour of pitch proved a curse for India. The great lesson is that when you are successful or archiving success, do not ignore weakness. Exactly, the same had happened in the world cup final between Pakistan and Australia in England in past. Pakistan had beaten Australia in the league phase, but in the final , Pakistan opted batting first and got out in a paltry score due to moisture in pitch.
We did not use a left-handed batsman who could have disturbed bowlers. Ashwin might have been a better option ahead of Kuldeep Yadav against left handed batsmen like Travis Head. Inclusion of Surya Kumar Yadav was a sheer wastage as he did not have much contribution nor deserve sixth position on batting line. Of course, he is a great 20-20 player.
The Indian team got panicked easily. They do not have a habit of winning closely contested matches like the Australia team. Rohit Sharma should have used Mohammed Siraj before introducing spinners. He is the number one one day bowler in ICC ranking. If you do not have faith in him, why did you allow him to play? Youngsters like Shubman Gill, Sreyas Iyer must have learnt about the difference between IPL and such big tournaments. They should try to become big match players like that of Australians. I don’t blame Rohit Sharma for getting out for playing a risky shot. But this was the way, he had dominated bowling of opponents.
However, apart from Travis Head, Glen Maxwel (Australia), Daryl Mitchell and R Ravindra (New Zealand), Quinton de Kock and Gerald Coetzee (South Africa), Dilshan Madushanka (Sri Lanka), Adam Zampa (Australia) have impressed a lot.