Fifty years on, the tables turned yesterday on India in the men’s ICC ODI World Cup final. Unbeaten in the lead-up to yesterday’s final, and seemingly as invincible as Clive Lloyd’s West Indians were in 1983, India’s submission to the tough and unrelenting Australians gave the team from “Down Under” their sixth lien on the World Cup as deserving champions.
India captain Rohit Sharma and his team must have spent last night pondering what went so radically wrong, that the batting line-up that had done so outstandingly well, scoring beyond 300-plus runs innings after innings, could have been shut out for the low 240, and then for the first time, its high-quality combination of spin and pace attack failed to make a serious impression on the Australian batsmen.
For Australia, it was a total team performance. Although its century-making opener Travis Head, who in partnership with Manus Labuschagne put on 192 for the winning fourth-wicket partnership, must count as the single most significant performance of the final for which he duly received the Man-of-the-Match Award.
What makes this sixth ODI win by the Australians even more satisfying for their country’s pride is the team’s comeback victory from near defeat by Afghanistan, which could have meant their not being able to get into the semis. The outstanding player of that game was Glen Maxwell with a whirlwind 200 that stole the game away from the Afghans.
Yesterday’s defeat for India in front of their celebrating and adoring fans was obviously very painful, and not a little self-diminishing for the team, inclusive of the several champion players within its ranks. Having started off their innings with enterprise and assured stroke play, but having lost three quick wickets, the Indian batsmen, led by Virat Kholi and KL Rahul, went on the defensive, and for ten long overs were not able to score one boundary; that was surely a decisive period in the game.
When India attempted to get out of the cocoon, their batsmen, one after the other, succumbed easily and quickly to well-targeted and determined Australian bowling and fielding.
The pain of India notwithstanding, the Australians, who did not start well in the tournament and were beaten on a couple of occasions, were solidly professional in the final. But for the short period at the opening of the Indian innings, when captain Sharma went after the Aussie bowlers, Australia, without dazzling performances in the field, did the job with composure and without at any point allowing the home team the slightest opportunity to get back into the game after its seriously under par 240-run total.
Once again, team Australia has proven itself to be tough, not giving an inch to opponents, and ruthless when victory is in sight; commendable world champions they are once again.
The tournament also saw quality performances from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and even the Dutch showed that within a decade, the champions of the past and present will be pushed.
India, as host of the tournament, with its spectacular grounds, arguably not challenged by any other cricket nation, and with supporters knowledgeable and enthusiastic are victors in their own right.
Our West Indian board-plus now have the responsibility to return our cricket to respectability and triumph.