2023 Cricket World Cup Final Preview: Passionate fans will prove there’s no place like home for India
16 November 2023
The cricket World Cup Final is here: 45 days on from the tournament opener, India will face Australia in Ahmedabad for cricket’s ultimate prize.
This is the 13th edition of the cricket World Cup and between them these two powerhouses account for seven of the tournament wins, five for Australia and two for India. Both have lost the final on one occasion: Australia to Sri Lanka in 1996 and India to Australia in 2003.
The match will be played at the enormous Narendra Modi Stadium. Construction on the stadium was completed early in 2020 and it was opened by the Indian Prime Minister, after whom it is named, and US President Donald Trump in February of the same year. The 132,000 amphitheatre is a cathedral to Indian cricket and, on Sunday, the eleven players in blue will be worshipped by the masses. It is also a powerful symbol of a country that wants to be taken seriously on the world stage.
Prime Minister Modi has attached his political bandwagon to the Indian team and with elections coming next spring it is hard to underestimate what a win will mean for the nation and Modi. For both, losing doesn’t bear thinking about. Since the schedule for the tournament was released, November 19 has been India’s date with destiny.
The 2003 final between these sides was an incredibly one-sided affair. Australia were the No.1 side in the world and, according to Damien Martyn, who scored 88, “nobody expected us to get beaten”. The Aussies batted first and, thanks to 141 off 121 balls from skipper Ricky Ponting, posted a mammoth score of 359/2. India never came close and were bowled out for 234. It was a truly dominant performance from the dominant team in world cricket. Twenty years on, a role reversal could be on the cards.
When the two teams met in their first match of the group stage on October 8, India ran out winners by six wickets but the game was a lot closer than that. Having been bowled out for just 199, Australia piled on the pressure with the new ball, reducing India to three wickets down for just two runs. But a partnership of 164 between Virat Kohli, the tournament’s leading run-scorer, and KL Rahul took India home. India have been absolutely dominant in this tournament, but this was probably when they came under the most pressure. Both teams have played a lot of cricket since then and the pressure of a final is vastly different to an opening group match so I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Both teams are familiar with the ground having both won there in the group stage. India beat Pakistan by seven wickets and Australia saw off England by 33 runs. Three of the four matches at the stadium were won by the team batting second, so the toss could be important.
Traditional cricketing wisdom says that batting first and creating scoreboard pressure on your opponent is the way to win finals, but in the seven World Cup finals from 1996, five have been won by the team chasing – including the last three.
Going into the tournament, India were heavy favourites at 3.0: this is partly down to the quality of the team but also the fact that the last three World Cups have been won by the hosts: England in 2019, Australia in 2015 and India in 2011. Australia were third favourites, behind England, at 5.6. After an early wobble, the Aussies have been very impressive and come into the final on a hot run of form. They are a team full of experienced cricketers who won’t be fazed by the big occasion.
But still the pressure created by 1.3 billion expectant supporters is all I can see stopping this fantastic India team from winning their third World Cup. They have been led brilliantly by Rohit Sharma, tactically and by example, through his selfless batting. Thanks to Kohli, they are probably equally comfortable chasing as batting first. They have a bowling attack complete with every weapon you would ever need, from raw pace to mystery spin.
Back India to win @ 1.49
16 November 2023