ICC World Cup 2023 Australia defeated home team India at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday, 19 November. Despite dreaming of winning 10 consecutive matches, the Indian team looked lackluster in the match that mattered most.
Concerns for India started as soon as the coin was tossed. Dew had already accumulated at the venue the evening before and so it was expected that it would appear once again, causing damage to the team bowling second. With Australia winning the toss and inviting India to bat, it became clear to Rohit and Co. that they needed to post a big score, as they had been doing throughout the tournament, with potential dew forming. Have a buffer against. They come to bowl. As a result, there was already pressure on the batsmen.
Furthermore, the pitch was slow and not one that could be batted on freely throughout the innings. The ball did not come on the bat as the Indian batsmen used to do and, most importantly, this helped the spinners a lot. Initially, when the ball was new it was relatively easy to bat, there was more scope to take risks and score runs freely when the powerplay was on. The Rohit Sharma-Virat Kohli partnership proved this and they did exactly that, scoring 46 runs off 32 balls for the second wicket.
However, Rohit Sharma played a shot too many against Glenn Maxwell after hitting a six and a four on the last two balls respectively. Rohit did not have complete control over the sixes hit earlier in the over. The ball was already spinning a lot and hence he needed to exercise some degree of caution in that situation. But Rohit, who was playing the same way, tried to dominate the bowler further by hitting another four.
Unfortunately, he could not quite reach the pitch of the ball and took it to the cover region, where Travis Head, who was already excelling in the field by that stage, took a catch. When you look back at the Indian innings now, this seems to be the moment that turned the momentum towards Australia.
With Rohit returning to the pavilion soon after Iyer and the score reading 81/3 in 10.2 overs, Kohli and Rahul had to combine correctly to avoid a possible collapse. The platform set by Rohit allowed him to spend some time and play risk-free cricket for some time, but it played into the hands of the Australian bowlers, who did not challenge at that stage and hence dominated the proceedings.
As time passed the innings started going down further. Despite the difficulties posed by the wicket and the Australian bowlers and fielders, the batsmen needed to take few risks. The fact that he did not hit any boundaries for 97 balls shows how conservative he was in his approach. India were stuck in a situation in which they had to score a lot of runs but also needed to save wickets.
Add to this the pressure of the final on home ground in front of 92,453 spectators; It appeared that the fear of failure had taken over the Indian batsmen. Against a top quality bowling attack that read the pitch extremely well and executed its plans with confidence, remaining fearful or conservative for too long was a recipe for disaster. Once the Australian bowlers figured out what they needed to do on that pitch, it was a tough task even for the batsmen who came in after the dismissal of KL Rahul and Kohli.
When the Indian team came out to defend the very low target of 241 runs, it needed to bowl and field as it has been doing so far in the tournament. Bumrah’s very first ball created a chance at first slip where Kohli was caught napping. This was an opening that India could not afford.
Later, there were many flaws in the fielding, even Rahul was having trouble saving runs behind the wicket. Furthermore, India’s star bowler and tournament’s leading wicket-taker Mohammed Shami was opposite him, bowling down the leg side at times. It was clear that he was also feeling the pressure and was not able to bowl the way he used to, trying hard to take wickets. Overall, a lot of easy runs were given away in that early phase.
Last but not least, it would be unfair to not give the Australian team the credit they deserve for forcing India to play the way they did. A team that lost its first two matches and found itself at the bottom of the table was not given a chance by many to make the knockouts. Soon, it made its mark and there was no looking back after that. In the final the team looked calm, composed and focused on the target.
The fielding was excellent throughout almost the entire match, especially Travis Head who saved valuable runs and almost took a catch in the early innings. Barring a few interruptions, the bowling was accurate and the Indian batsmen were successfully dismantled in their own home ground. The batsmen played intelligently, knowing what they wanted to achieve. The mix of attack and defense was balanced with the ball performing quite well in the first 15 or so overs. Overall, it was a perfect performance, one he would be really proud of.
India have lost the least number of matches (one) in the tournament, but have lost only one match which they should not have lost. Despite topping the table in both the 2019 and 2023 ODI World Cup editions and losing in the knockouts, they are now well aware that the latter is a completely different cup of tea. Add to that the innumerable defeats in semi-finals and finals in ICC events over the last decade, and it is time the Indian team management solved this mystery.