As India prepares for the much-anticipated 2023 World Cup final against Australia, the team finds itself in a formidable position, bolstered by a combination of individual brilliance and collective strengths.
The narrative of India’s journey to the final is woven around the brilliant form of its batting order and bowling attack as well as excellence on the field. So it comes as no surprise that India remains the only unbeaten team in the World Cup so far and Rohit Sharma’s men will be looking to end the tournament unbeaten when they take on the mighty Aussies in Ahmedabad for the title.
As India prepares to take on the Aussies, let’s take a comprehensive look at the strengths driving the men in blue and the potential challenges that may stand between them and a coveted third World Cup title.
Selfless, sensational Rohit
Rohit Sharma has shown an incredibly self-sacrificing attitude at the opening slot throughout the tournament, putting the interests of the team ahead of personal milestones. His aggressive approach ensured strong starts for India throughout the tournament and he didn’t let the haunting memories of India’s 2019 semi-final exit against New Zealand limit his play during the return leg against the Kiwis earlier this week. His 27-ball 45 laid the foundation for an exemplary performance by the batting side as India posted a mammoth 397/4 in fifty overs.
Kohli’s record run
Virat Kohli, the linchpin of the batting line-up, went into top gear and on Wednesday surpassed the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s record for most centuries in ODI history as well as most runs in a single edition of the World Cup. His consistent scoring not only propelled India forward but also established him as the primary player to watch out for in the finals. In India’s group match against Australia, it was Kohli who steered the sinking ship in the 200-run chase; India was left at 2/3 as the 35-year-old Indian star along with KL Rahul rebuilt India’s innings and eventually secured a six-wicket win. He scored 85 that day and has since added three more fifties and as many centuries to his name in the tournament.
Role clarity and aggressive intent
The semi-final against New Zealand was an example of role clarity in the batting order. After Rohit Sharma’s dismissal, Shubman Gill struck with an aggressive approach and allowed Kohli to play his natural game. And when the youngster was forced off after cramping and a hamstring pull, Shreyas Iyer also played his naturally aggressive game to keep the pressure on the Kiwis. It was evident throughout the tournament that Virat Kohli is the glue that binds the batting order; he adds solidity to the Indian batting and the team management recognizes this quite well.
The art of bowling and Shami’s revelation
Mohammed Shami has been a revelation for India in the bowling department, amassing a remarkable 23 wickets in just seven matches. His ability to precisely lead the pace attack and pick key wickets at key points made India even more dominant in the World Cup. Shami was not part of India’s playing XI for the first four matches and Hardik Pandya’s injury allowed his entry. While Hardik’s absence remained a big loss in the batting order, the bowling attack got quality pace in Shamim as he wreaked havoc on the opposition throughout the tournament. Against New Zealand, Shami broke the dangerous partnership between Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell as he removed the former and ended up with incredible figures of 7/57.
Among the spinners, Kuldeep Yadav, the Chinese maestro, complemented the pace attack brilliantly. His ability to maintain pressure in the middle overs along with the all-round brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja gave India a versatile bowling unit. The duo’s synergy proved key in limiting oppositions and creating breakthroughs when needed.
Despite flashes of brilliance, Mohammed Siraj has struggled to maintain consistency heading into the 2023 World Cup. While his memorable spell against Sri Lanka (3/16 in seven overs) proved key to the shocking collapse of the batting, he has struggled to run away as seen in the match against New Zealand where he conceded 78 runs in 9 overs. With a bowling average of 32.61, Siraj has the highest average among Indian bowlers with 15 or more overs in the tournament, highlighting the need for more consistency in his performances.
Untested lower order in high-pressure situations
Thanks to our top order, which has shown unparalleled resilience and stability, the lower order has never had to face daunting situations in this edition. But in a high-pressure match – such as a World Cup final – anything can happen. And while India has the resources to overcome the challenges, they have so far remained largely untested. The limited exposure of players like Suryakumar Yadav (who faced 77 deliveries in 6 matches) and Ravindra Jadeja (who faced 96 deliveries in 10 matches) raises concerns about their readiness to handle pressure situations in the crucial closing stages of the tournament. In the last match, Suryakumar came to bat in the final over while Jadeja did not come to bat at all.
Lack of batting depth
This is no secret; after all, Hardik Pandya’s absence has greatly weakened India’s batting depth. The team has played with six batsmen in the last six matches and while bowlers like Bumrah and Shami have some batting talent, their ability to play a supporting role at the crease remains uncertain. In contrast, Australia benefits from the all-around prowess of players like Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, who have time and again proven their resilience and ability to handle pressure. In the semi-final against South Africa, the duo created a decisive chance to win in an unbeaten 22-run win. And who can forget Cummins’ exemplary unbeaten knock of 68 balls in the match against Afghanistan, where he arrived when his side were 7 wickets down for just 91 in a chase of 292 runs and stuck at one end to ensure Glenn Maxwell’s insane power-hitting gave Australia an unforgettable victory.
An undeniable truth of knockout cricket is that certainty can be elusive. But the strengths showcased throughout the tournament, from a formidable batting order to top-notch bowling, definitely position India as a dominant force. The calm and composed demeanor displayed in the semi-final, where they overcame a formidable partnership between Williamson and Mitchell, reflects a team that can withstand pressure. And if possible, India should emerge victorious for the third time on Sunday.
Image Source: MSN