Western Indian city of Ahmedabad is gearing up for the finals of cricket’s showpiece event. It’s a sell out at the 138,000 capacity Narendra Modi Stadium and those who are reselling their tickets are making a killing with some tickets sold at INR 800,000, which is over three million Sri Lankan. Hotel rooms are going at princely sums and internal flight prices have gone through the roof. On Sunday, a packed house will be rooting for India. Can Australia spring a surprise.
India have been unbeaten in the competition so far having won all their ten games. They are in for a bad game. Australia, meanwhile, started off their campaign with two defeats in their first two encounters. But later they found momentum and since then have won eight games in a row.
These are two well balanced sides. Both teams’ batters are in good nick while both pace attacks are quite formidable. India has an edge over Australia with their spin attack. The Aussies even things out as they are the best fielding unit of the two teams.
The two best outfits in the competition have reached the finals. Who will hold the nerve in the final remains to be seen. Australia are eyeing their sixth World Cup title while India are looking good to lift their third title after their 1983 and 2011 triumphs.
How India have turned around their cricket is a case study for many teams to follow. Spin used to be their strength for decades, but now they have backed their seam attack and the trio of Mohammad Shami, Mohammad Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah have made to look India’s spin attack a pale shadow of their former self.
Fitness is the other area that India have improved on leaps and bounds, and their rewards are rich.
This has been a fabulous World Cup that had it all. There were upsets like Netherlands overcoming South Africa and Afghanistan finishing sixth having recorded stunning wins over England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
They had the game against Australia in the bag but dropped catches cost them dearly. Had they pulled off that game, they could have created history with a shot at the semi-finals.
Pulling off wins from the jaws of defeat is an art the Aussies have mastered. At 91 for seven, chasing 292, the writing was on the wall for Pat Cummins’ side and a semi-final spot was at stake. But Glenn Maxwell overcame cramps and played a blinder. Australia will be hoping that he plays a similar knock in the final although England have all bases covered.
Defending champions England were a massive disappointment finishing with just three wins.
Six defeats in their first seven games derailed England’s campaign even halfway before the tournament. Eventually, they were forced to play to secure a Champions Trophy slot.
One team that will feel gutted at the outcome of their campaign is South Africa. They started off so well and looked set to end their World Cup woes looking to reach their first final in their ninth attempt. But their catching and the top order wasn’t up to scratch, and they crashed out losing a hard-fought game. This is the fifth time they have made it to the semis and have not gone beyond.
There were a few standout young performers in the competition with New Zealand’s Rachi Ravindra, playing his first major tournament, finishing as the third highest run getter. His 578 runs came at an average of 64 with three hundreds and two half-centuries.
Dilshan Madushanka finished the tournament as the highest wicket taker with 21 scalps to his name and since Sri Lanka’s campaign ended, Mohammad Shami (23) and Adam Zampa (22) have gone past him, but still, he is likely to end up as World Cup’s third highest wicket taker.
Narendra Modi Stadium, which will host the final is an architectural marvel. The venue is superbly planned with every seat giving a spectacular view.
When Sri Lanka played a Test match here in 2009, the venue could barely host 30,000 fans but since then the Gujarat State Cricket Association has done remarkable development work.
The 2009 Test match is remembered for Mahela Jayawardene’s 275, still the highest score by an overseas batsman in India, remarkable feat given the fact that India have been playing Test cricket for 90 years now,
Indian cricket landscape has changed significantly. Bombay used to be country’s cricketing headquarters and then gradually it shifted to Calcutta when Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya headed the Indian board. Now Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat is the de facto headquarters of Indian cricket. Prime Minister Modi was a three-time Chief Minister of the State, and he is expected to attend the game as the Chief Guest.