World Cup final: Aussies stand between India and ultimate glory
12 years since the last World Cup win, Rohit and Co will be having one last go against Australia to get their hands on the trophy
AHMEDABAD: The World Cup. Holy grail. Poisoned chalice.
In an Indian context, it has made and destroyed teams and individuals. It has wrecked relationships. Adults have bawled on live TV.
On a typical London summer day, a band of brothers surprised themselves. At Johannesburg, they weren't even allowed to dream. In dying light in Port of Spain, superstars were shellshocked. On a floodlit night in Mumbai, some of them made memories to last a lifetime.
The highest of highs. The lowest of lows.
Over the last eight years, ICC events have only caused heartburn. Australia prevailed in a one-sided semifinal in 2015. Pakistan cantered past in 2017. New Zealand have been a scourge over the last few years in all three formats.
Now, 15 men stand on the edge of the precipice. Between them and glory, immortality even, are familiar foes, Australia. While they were tipped to at least reach the final, few would have predicted their path.
They have handed shellackings, enjoyed big wins and exorcised demons with minimum of fuss. Watching on from the outside, it's been disconcerting. Reaching the final of a global event is not supposed to be this easy. Hello, where's the jeopardy? There's been more tension in wondering whether Virat Kohli would reach a 100 before reaching the target. In one match, KL Rahul wondered why he finished the chase with a six. "I could have hit a four and followed it up with a six for my 100," was his internal monologue. Probably.
The bowlers have operated with a joie de vivre you normally associate with a Cirque du Soleil show. They have come in and handed beatdowns that wouldn't be out of place in boys vs men's games.
Yet, for all the good work the team has done, legacies don't get written for reaching the final. Generations don't get inspired after a loss. It may be cruel but that's what separates knockout sport at the highest level. This is now the belly of the beast territory.
Skipper Rohit Sharma is well aware of the significance of the final but he will continue to do what he has done. Never one for Churchillian speeches, the processes that have brought the team this far will continue for one final day.
"I don't want them to change the thought process that they had before the start of the tournament," he said in the pre-match press conference. "All those things are clear. And I thought in this entire tournament, we were quite straightforward with that thought.
"... it will be nice to do (win the World Cup) it because we have worked hard for it. But again, we don't want to get too excited. A balanced atmosphere, balanced thinking at this stage will be nice."
The other thing that has worked for them throughout this campaign has been their clutter-free approach to all matches. The players know why they are in the team and what's expected of them. Expect that role clarity to continue. "Till now, role clarity has played an important role. Whether we perform or not is another thing but as long as all the boys are playing, if it becomes clear, then the work becomes a bit easier. We put a lot of effort into playing with a clear mindset, identifying clear roles. Which boys will come and bat, which boys will bowl, which boys will stand in the slips... we had planned all of this. Till now, everything has been good. Hopefully, tomorrow (Sunday) will be the same."
While this contest will lack some of the animosity of the earlier contests between the two nations, make no mistake about what's at stake. India have dominated the financial landscape of the sport for at least the last decade but for all their financial might, they do not have the gongs to show for it.
There is also the Australia factor. Sure, this isn't 2003 where they were clearly superior and that superiority came through on the field. In fact, at some level, India have assumed that position at the very top of the cricketing food chain. They have gone to Australia and beaten them twice in the two-Test series. However, beating them in a final would be a symbolic moment.
There will be 1,32,000 rammed into the Stadium to see if the passing-of-the-torch comes to fruition. Needless to say, there will be a blue wall of noise. How does Cummins plan to deal with it? "Embrace it," he said. "In sport, there's nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent and that's the aim for us."
On the tournament's 46th day, Indian fans will want to live through eight of the nine navarasas, an Indian theatre term, that was reimagined in a sporting context by ICC for this edition.
Joy. Power. Respect. Pride. Bravery. Glory. Wonder. Passion.
The ninth is something this team hasn't felt over the last one-and-a-half months.
Will it be the holy grail or the poisoned chalice?
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