Loud start to the India-Australia World Cup final
Just before the Airshow began, Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to send India in on a dry-looking deck in patches.
AHMEDABAD: A roar went up over the Narendra Modi Stadium moments after the toss. The already-capacity crowd knew what the sound was. Before they craned their necks to look skywards, the machine had left in its wake a trail of smoke.
The Indian Air Force's (IAF) Suryakiran Airshow had just begun and it was creating quite the din. Imagine a bunch of Formula 1 cars zooming through the sky. The noise level was something else as they whooshed past.
While the Airshow was the official beginning of the festivities on the day of the final, the city had turned into the unmistakable hue of Indian cricket's blue from 8.00 AM. Fans with match tickets -- and without match tickets but magically hoping to procure one -- had hit the streets. The cafes were overflowing, the main arterial roads saw people flying the tricolour to chants of 'Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega' and 'Bharat mata ki jai'... the sense of occasion was hard to miss.
On the Motera Road, a sea of blue had started to make their way to the turnstiles as early as 11.00 AM. In some of the matches at this World Cup, the gates hadn't been opened that early. But for the final, the Gates were opened well in advance. Also, the crowds had taken their time to come in, to legislate for the heat. Even if there was a slight early morning nip in the air, it was still pretty hot as the clock ticked past midday. But an already sizable number of people had decided to brave the conditions. The mercury was only saying 31*c but the on-ground temperature was several rungs higher.
Just before the Airshow began, Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to send India in on a dry-looking deck in patches. As soon as the news spread, the crowd let out their first huge cheer of the afternoon. While India's bowlers are box-office, their batters would take first strike. Even if Australia's decision may have been informed by the copious amounts of dew over the last few days -- Cummins himself admitted as much in the pre-match press conference -- there is a wisdom that goes 'you never chase in a big match'. If nothing else, there would be no repeat of an Indian captain sending Australia into bat only for them to set a target of 360 like it happened in 2003, the last time these two sides played in a men's final.
Before Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill walked out to bat, Sachin Tendulkar walked out with the trophy to chants of 'Sachinnn, Sachinnn'.
If they retain the same level of enthusiasm throughout this day of days, they will have a night to remember.