The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 ended on a disappointing note for all of India. After ten comprehensive wins on the trot, Rohit Sharma and his team were outplayed by Australia in the summit clash.
To paraphrase what Pat Cummins, the victorious captain, said at the end of the game, the Australians saved their best for the last. Not many approved of their decision to bowl first after winning the toss, and indeed Rohit Sharma even said that he would have batted first had he won it. India got off to a flier, with the captain leading from the front like he had throughout the competition. His dismissal, to an outstanding catch by Travis Head, triggered a turnaround. The manner in which the Australians tightened the screws after Sharma’s dismissal was incredible. They bowled to their fields and choked the batters. Virat Kohli managed to find a way until he played on, but K.L. Rahul allowed himself to be shackled. In all fairness to him and his teammates, they would have had their long tail at the back of their minds. India’s batters had fired right through the competition and the tail had not been tested. Eventually, the lack of versatile cricketers in the line-up, cost India dear. That is sport and that is life – what you perceive as your strengths can become your weaknesses.
After putting up only 240 on the board, India could still have made a match of it, had the spinners struck. However, both Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav misfired and failed to take a single wicket between themselves, after the pacemen had taken three early wickets. Head, who had turned the game in his team’s favour with that catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma, then essayed an innings for the ages. In winning the individual award in the semi-final and final of the same World Cup, he finds himself in the august company of Mohinder Amarnath, Shane Warne and Aravinda De Silva.
While the Indian cricketers certainly deserve to be commended for the way they played in the World Cup, the fact is that there is no place for ‘moral victors’ in sport. India’s best bet will be to take the positives (and there were many) into account and focus on extending the ‘winning’ habit’ into the bilateral series that they are scheduled to play. The more you keep winning, the better you know how to win big matches. The Australians certainly know how to do so. Seven members of the current side were also a part of the side that won the World Cup in 2015. What the World Cup also did was make fans forget all the speculation about the imminent ‘demise’ of ODIs, at least for the time being. The 2023 World Cup witnessed cricket of the highest quality and all the matches attracted spectators and TV/digital viewers from across the world. It is now up to the ICC to figure out ways in which a balance can be achieved between the three formats.
Congratulations Australia and tough luck India. The sun rose on the morning after the final and set on the evening of the final. Life will go on. New opportunities and platforms will present themselves.
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