The great Indian dream kept slip-sliding away before dying a slow death. It was fun as long as it lasted. But it was not to linger. Australia overpowered India in every department to clinch a sixth World Cup amidst an ocean of blue in Ahmedabad.
This was a great Indian World Cup team. Better, perhaps, than those which won the titles in 1983 and 2011. In the end, however, this remained India’s greatest-ever 10-match ODI team. They came, saw and conquered, but just for that many games.
Travis Head, with the bat, was obviously the biggest thorn in India’s flesh. But the first step of dismantling the Indian enterprise began with Australia’s fielding. The player included late in the side was instrumental in that as well. Head’s catch to send back a Rohit Sharma threatening to go berserk was the turning point of the match.
The signs were seen before that. There were several saves showing copious amounts of fitness, focus and commitment inside the circle and on the boundary line. Those kept India from making a better start despite a flurry of forceful strokes from Rohit.
This was undoubtedly the first instance of a team winning a World Cup primarily by dint of fielding. Diving, sliding, catching and doing the essentials with two hands — this was an exemplary exhibition of sustained fielding excellence showing supreme technique, agility, fitness, dedication and sense of the occasion.
Australia did it match after match. Taking names is futile. All of them were embodiments of fierce commitment when it came saving ones, twos, fours and taking catches. If you have to, remember David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Marnus Labuschagne and, of course, Pat Cummins.
Cummins is a rare figure. A captain who is a fast bowler par excellence, who bats effectively when the chips are down and takes catches which turn matches! It’s too much of a combination. Cummins was the fulcrum, the galvanizer, the stabilizer and the single-point inspiration for this team. He was the man behind this turnaround.
Australia were not doing well before the World Cup and shortly into it. Naturally boisterous and aggressive cricketers, they needed a calming influence after going through periods of turmoil. They did not have obvious leadership options. Stepping in at this juncture and justifying the faith of those who selected him, Cummins distinguished himself as a captain who prefers the backstage and gets the job done.
One has to give it to Cummins, the commander who embodies calmness. An anti-thesis of some illustrious Australian captains because he does not brag, Cummins came across as a true leader. He kept quiet, stayed in the background and came to the fore when needed, masterminding things from the backstage. Cummins brought about the understated steadfastness Australia needed.
This has to rank at the top of Australia’s World Cup triumphs. Never before had the odds been stacked so much against them. With due respect to that Maxwell double-century, Adam Zampa’s tally of wickets and everything else, fielding was the standout feature of this journey against adversities, led and inspired by a certain Saint Patrick. He supervised the process which took way what was going to be India’s World Cup.