• Friday, December 08, 2023

CRICKET

India eyes fairytale finish in World Cup final

MUMBAI, INDIA – NOVEMBER 15: Players of India line up for national anthems prior to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup India 2023 Semi Final match between India and New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium on November 15, 2023 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

ROHIT SHARMA’s undefeated India will look to end a 10-year global title drought in front of 130,000 fans in the World Cup final against five-time champions Australia on Sunday (19).

India have racked up 10 straight wins at the tournament as they seek a third World Cup triumph to add to their 1983 and 2011 victories, the last of which came on home soil.

Despite the country’s cricket riches, India are without a major international title since the 2013 Champions Trophy and expectations in the cricket-crazy nation of 1.4 billion people have reached fever pitch.

However, the hosts are up against an Australian side who have won eight matches in a row and will be playing in their eighth World Cup final.

“We’ve won before,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said on Saturday (18).

“I think one of the pleasing things is I still don’t feel like we’ve played the complete game.”

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the final match, as fans across the cricket-mad country held prayers for a win.

Modi will be joined at the game by Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles, the Gujarat state government said in a statement on Saturday.

As well as the cricket, celebrations will include an airforce flypast, light and laser show, and hundreds of dancers performing Bollywood hit songs at the innings break, according to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Fans organised special prayers across the country for an India win, media reports said, holding Hindu ceremonies asking for victory.

Ahmedabad buzzed with excitement and anticipation, with life-size posters of Indian heroes including Virat Kohli up at local shops.

Large deployments of security forces were reported on the city’s streets.

Hotels are fully booked, with an overflow of fans waiting to pay many times over their usual price for a room.

The stadium was one of the pet projects of Modi when he headed Gujarat’s state government, before he became prime minister in 2014.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, told TV channel India Today, “This is going to be an unbelievable game”.

“You are playing against the five-time champions, a team that knows how to come back from almost impossible situations, who know how to play finals, how to win finals.”

“So I believe it will be a real, real challenge for the Indian team but I do believe that Rohit Sharma’s men are up for it.”

Apart from their five World Cup titles, Australia clinched their maiden T20 crown in 2021 and also beat India convincingly in the World Test Championship final earlier this year.

India handed Australia a six-wicket mauling in the group stage in Chennai four weeks ago where Cummins’ side were bowled out for 199.

Australia also slumped to a 134-run defeat by South Africa in pool play but avenged that loss with a tense three-wicket semi-final win over the Proteas in Kolkata on Thursday (16).

India made the final by hammering New Zealand by 70 runs in Mumbai with a red-hot Virat Kohli hitting a record 50th ODI century.

(AFP)

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