Australia are adamant they will be “ready for anything” India throw at them in the Cricket World Cup final after controversy hit the tournament in a ‘pitch switch’ row.
India have been the form team of the World Cup, winning all 10 games on their way to today’s showpiece match in Ahmedabad.
But there was controversy in the lead-up to their 70-run semi-final in over New Zealand in Mumbai after it emerged the game was being played on a Wankhede Stadium pitch already used twice before during the tournament rather than a freshly-prepared surface.
“No doubt playing on your own wicket in your own country has some advantages,” Australia captain Pat Cummins told a pre-match press conference yesterday. “But we’ve played a lot of cricket over here.”
“We’ll be ready in terms of anything they’ll throw at us...we’ll make sure we have some plans.”
The pitch will be the same surface as the one on which India cruised to a seven-wicket pool win over Pakistan last month, when they dismissed their arch-rivals for just 191 after winning the toss.
“My understanding is it’s going to be on the slower side,” said India captain Rohit Sharma.
“But we have to assess what it is like tomorrow,” he added, pointing out that while there had been dew on the ground ahead of the Pakistan game, none appeared during the match itself.
“That’s why I keep saying the toss is not going to be a factor, you’ve got to play well to win the game regardless of how well you know the conditions.”
A used pitch had no major bearing on the Mumbai semi-final, with more than 700 runs scored in the game. Cummins, asked if he had already seen the pitch for the final, replied: “Yeah, just had a look. It looked pretty firm...I think Pakistan played someone there!”
Used pitches generally favour spinners, with slow bowling a key component of a five-man India attack where Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja are expected to bowl 20 of their 50 overs on Sunday. Australia have already won the World Cup a record five times and 30-year-old fast bowler Cummins, a member of the victorious 2015 side, was excited by having the opportunity to emulate the likes of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting by leading the team to another triumph.
“It would be huge,” he said. “We were all kids not too long ago, watching some of those great teams win the 1999, 2003, 2007 World Cups.”
He added: “To be captain would be an absolute privilege...it’d be awesome. “It (the World Cup) has got the longest history of a world event where all the teams compete. You only get a shot at it every four years. So even if you have a long career, you might only play in two of these events. 2015 is still a career highlight for me, but I think tomorrow, if we win, might pip it.”
Rohit yesterday said his players understand the pressure of being Indian cricketers and remain “calm and composed” for the final.“Leading up to every game we have been quite composed, quite calm about what we want to do, because we know how it is outside the environment we have,” Rohit told reporters. “The expectations and the pressure, criticism and everything, so it’s important we stick to our strength and what we want to do as a team.”
“Inside what they (players) feel I can’t tell you, but when they are around the group, everybody seems to be quite relaxed and calm. Being an Indian cricketer you have deal with pressure, that’s a given, it’s there.”
India last won the World Cup in 2011 at home under MS Dhoni with the cricket crazy-country erupting in joy as thousands took to the streets to celebrate.
Two years later, Dhoni led India to the 2013 Champions Trophy, but the cricketing powerhouse faltered at the World Cup semi-final stage in 2015 and 2019.
This time around, Rohit’s team has lived up to their billing of pre-tournament favourites with a perfect showing in the league stage and then a 70-run win over New Zealand in the semi-final.
“Emotionally it’s a big thing, a big occasion,” said 36-year-old Rohit. “So along with me, all the other 10 players who will play on the ground tomorrow, their focus will be more on their work for the team, rather than thinking about, this is the biggest moment of my life.”
Fellow cricket superpower Australia are into their eighth World Cup final. They have won eight matches on the bounce after two opening losses, including a six-wicket defeat to India after they were bowled out for just 199.
“They’ve won eight out of eight and they played it really well. So, it’s going to be a good contest,” said Rohit.
“Both teams deserve to be at this stage playing the finals and we understand the importance of what Australia can do. They are a very complete side and for us again what is important is to focus on what we want to do as a team.”
Rohit he wants to win the title for coach Rahul Dravid who was part of the India team which suffered a crushing 125-run defeat at the hands of Australia in the 2003 World Cup final in Johannesburg.
In 2007, India failed to qualify for the knockout stages when Dravid was captain. “His role has been absolutely massive,” said Rohit. “Clearly, looking at how Rahul himself has played his cricket and how I am playing these days, obviously it’s quite contrasting.
“For him to agree and give me that freedom and liberty to go and play the way we want to play, that says a lot about him. Obviously, what he has done for Indian cricket is massive. And he also feels that he wants to be part of this big occasion. And it’s for us to do it for him.”
India’s captain Rohit Sharma (left) and his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins pose with the ICC World Cup trophy yesterday, on the eve of the final in Ahmedabad.