BY MAHADEV DESAI
For the innumerable cricket fans, the much-anticipated day had arrived! It was Sunday, November 19, 2923. The excitement in the packed Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was palpable. Team India, after an unparalleled record of the previous ten consecutive wins, was facing the Australian team in the final of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. No surprise that the majority of the fans wanted India to lift the coveted Trophy! Numerous fans all over India and other parts of the world would also be cheerleading for India! The Australian Team’s captain, Pat Cummins, won the toss, and as the cricket pitch was a bit sluggish, chose to field. India wanted to bat first, so they were relieved at Cummins’ decision.
India made a poor batting start as Shubman Gill was out for 4 runs, caught by Zampa off Starc’s bowling. Virat Kohli joined Rohit Sharma, whose quick fire 47 off 31 balls included four 4s and three 6s. He was, however, caught by Travis Head, who took a stunning diving catch. Shreyas Iyer, like Shubman Gill, didn’t last long and got out for a mere 4 runs. India was 81/3 at this stage, but Kohli and Lokesh Rahul dug in and played calmly and cautiously. The scoreboard kept ticking. When Kohli reached 50, the fans expected a big total from him. Alas, that was not to be! He defended the ball from Pat Cummins, but it rolled back and hit the stumps. He couldn’t believe what happened! He had scored 54 in 63 balls, with four 4s only! Rahul soon followed Kohli. He was out for 66 in 107 balls and only one four! Team India supporters were in a state of shock! All the remaining batsmen performed poorly. Ravindra Jadeja was out for 9; Suryakumar Yadav for 18; Mohammed Shami for 6; Jaspreet Bumrah for 1; Kuldeep Yadav for 10, and Mohammed Siraj for 9 runs! The Men in Blue had scored a bit less formidable score of 240 in all. Mitchell Starc took 3/55; Josh Hazelwood 2/60; Pat Cummins 2/34; and Adam Zampa 1/44.
India supporters were upbeat at first as Mohammed Shami removed David Warner for 7, and Jaspreet Bumrah got rid of Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith respectively. Australia was 47/3 at this stage when Marnus Labuschagne joined Travis Head. Both played patiently, confidently, and skillfully and piled on runs. Travis Head was more aggressive than Marnus Labuschagne. Rohit Sharma tried all the bowlers, but none could get rid of the pair. The stadium became almost silent as Head scored a ton and still kept going, till the 43rd over when he was caught by Shubman Gill off Mohammed Siraj. Head had scored a brilliant 137, including fifteen 4s and four sixes, in a 192 runs record 4th wicket partnership with Labuschagne, who scored 58 runs (not out), hitting only four 4s! Glenn Maxwell ran the winning two off his first ball in the 43rd over and it was all over, with Australia winning the match by six wickets! Jasprit Bumrah took 2/43; Mohammed Shami 1/47 and Mohammed Siraj 1/45.
India’s PM Modi, who was at the stadium along with Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, presented the coveted Winners Trophy to Pat Cummins and shook hands with Australia team players. Australia had won the Trophy for the record 6th time! Modi later met with the Indian team players in the dressing room and raised their spirits! Later on, he also tweeted; “Congratulations to Australia on a magnificent World Cup victory! Theirs was a commendable performance throughout the tournament, culminating in a splendid triumph. Compliments to Travis Head for his remarkable game today.” Virat Kohli was bestowed with the Player of the Tournament Award. He scored 765 runs in 11 matches at an astounding average of 95.62! Travis Head was awarded the Player of the Match Award. Mohammed Shami, India’s pace bowler, who took 1/47, ended as the leading wicket-taker of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 tournament, with 24 wickets. Josh Inglis became the first wicket-keeper to pouch five catches in a World Cup final.
No doubt, the loss was heart-breaking for Team India and its over a billion supporters. But no need to get disheartened. Better luck next time!