IND vs AUS: Billions of hearts were beating for one World title when Rohit Sharma's India took on Pat Cummins-led Australia in the final of World Cup 2023. It was a jam-packed Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad which geared up to host the two world giants. India had won everything they could so far and they started favourites against the most successful side in the tournament's history - Australia (a huge thing in itself). But it all went down on that tough day.
The Men in Blue were bowled out for the first time in this tournament and the bowling attack, which seemed to be having lion's teeth, fell apart. 240 was India's second-lowest total in this tournament (they defended 229 against England in Lucknow). So what happened on the night of the final in Ahmedabad?
What went wrong for India in the final vs Australia?
In short, the conditions played a considerable amount of role in deciding the winner of the match. Pat Cummins possibly played a masterstroke by opting to bowl first on a used track. The India vs Pakistan match earlier in October was played here and as stated by Ravi Shastri in the pitch report in the IND vs AUS final, this was left open for a long time. It was dry and patchy.
Moreover in the recent games seen here in this World Cup, chasing teams have found it easier to play in the second innings. In the previous games, the ball seemed to come better on the bat in the second innings rather than in the first. It was on display in the final too.
India were asked to bat first as Cummins called it right at the toss. However, Rohit Sharma stated that he was looking to bat first anyways which indicates India might have read the conditions wrong. As the game went on, Sharma was at his beast, taking down bowlers with the intent that has worked for him ever since the start of the tournament. Things slipped when the hosts lost three wickets for 81 with Virat Kohli and KL Rahul needing to do the hard yards of rebuilding. One can argue that Rahul's 67 from 107 balls could have been quicker but it seemed very hard to go behind the bowlers with the ball stopping and the Aussies bowling hard lengths.
Due to their rebuilding, India hit only two fours in overs between 11-40. Just when many thought they would accelerate, Kohli fell to a dab to Cummins when India was at 148/3 at 28.2 overs. Ravindra Jadeja and Rahul then needed to steady the ship again in challenging conditions and when they would have thought to hit, Jadeja went out with India being at 178/4 after 34.4 overs. Rahul followed soon at 203 in 42.2 overs and Suryakumar Yadav was left with a tough job on a tough wicket. India managed only 240 in 50 overs.
Bowling showed a spark but failed to win the game
India's bowling is one of the most talked about things in this World Cup. The discipline, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj have shown with the new ball is second to none. Add on, the wickets the first two have taken, there has been big pressure on teams before the game. Australia was no different either. Also, there was seam and swing on offer for the initial part of the chase.
For the first time, India went with Mohammed Shami over Siraj in the 2nd over and India were rewarded with David Warner's wicket. Bumrah provided the wickets of Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith as the Aussies were reeling at 47/3 in 7 overs. It looked like India would pull off again. But Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne were phenomenal. Not only that the conditions were then favouring the batters in the chase, but they also had to survive a tricky phase of the powerplay. Possibly after 7 overs, Head and Glenn Maxwell were the only two Aussie players that were standing between India and the World Cup. And Head proved that along with Labuschagne's gritty contribution.
India were troubled by conditions for sure. They could have played a role in deciding this contest but the Aussies played like a champion team, which outclassed the Indian juggernaut once and for the biggest time.
Is this the end of the road for veteran Indians?
Rohit Sharma 36, Virat Kohli 35, Ravindra Jadeja 34, and Mohammed Shami 33 - are in their mid-30s. One can argue how many Indians can play in the 2027 World Cup. These four have played multiple World Cups already. Yes, this was India's best chance to win a world title after 12 years. Will these two players play in the next World Cup is a thing of the future and probably no one can answer but can only guess.