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regular-article-logo Thursday, 29 February 2024

Hope to end 10-year trophy drought, spin set to do star turn in India-Australia final clash

The Australians have been an easy target of the tweakers in this tournament. Even during the semi-final against South Africa, the likes of Travis Head and David Warner str­uggled against part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram, not to mention the left-arm spin of Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj

Indranil Majumdar Ahmedabad Published 18.11.23, 09:25 AM
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja at nets in Ahmedabad on Friday, in a picture shared on Instagram

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja at nets in Ahmedabad on Friday, in a picture shared on Instagram Sourced by the Telegraph

Near the main gate of the Narendra Modi Stadium at Motera, a handful of Australian supporters who have landed in the city to watch the final were engaged in a banter with their Indian counterparts, 48 hours ahead of the World Cup final.

Dusk had almost set in on the stadium greens and the box office for online tickets is closed but there was still no let-up in catching every passer-by with fervent requests.

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Ahmedabad will remain the hot spot for most cricket aficionados till Sunday. Flights and hotels are filled to capacity while room tariff have zoomed since Wednesday once India confirmed their place in the title round.

Over the next two days, close to 100 private jets will ferry the rich and powerful in and out of the city. Even cabs have been booked in advance for Sunday’s big-ticket clash.

Inside the stadium on a sultry afternoon, six of India’s cricketers took part in an optional nets session. Rohit Sharma was not willing to skip an opportunity to fine-tune his batting and so were KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja.

Ravichandran Ashwin’s presence wasn’t a surprise but there’s certainly been some renewed interest surrounding the off-spinner considering the nature of the wicket. The Australians too have been an easy target of the tweakers in this tournament.

Even during the semi-final against South Africa, the likes of Travis Head and David Warner str­uggled against part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram, not to mention the left-arm spin of Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj. The trio just didn’t dry up the runs, they forced the batters into making mistakes.

A first look at the pitch suggested it could be slow and low, akin to the one used during the India-Pakistan encounter last month. The groundstaff even conferred that there was very little grass left to be erased.

ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson who led the controversy over the choice of pitch ahead of the Wankhede semi-final with his purported email to the governing body was nowhere to be seen though. There is talk that he has gone back following the completion of his assignment.

Against Pakistan here, Kuldeep Yadav and Jadeja had provided vital breakthroughs with four wickets, besides stopping the flow of runs in the middle overs.

But will India disturb their winning combination, especially their ‘Fab Five’ bowlers, given that they have played a significant role in their dream run in the tournament?

Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are a certainty though Mohammed Siraj did prove to be expensive at the Wankhede against New Zealand. But it would be unfair to sideline him following his performance in one match.

If India decide to include three spinners, the only other option could be playing Ashwin as an all-rounder while keeping Suryakumar Yadav out. But will the team management risk taking such a sweeping decision just for the final?

Ashwin’s only presence in the tournament has been India’s opening game, the clash against Pat Cummins’ men in Chennai.

Forty-eight hours before the World Cup final, the Motera stadium had an air of festivity and abandon.

More than 200 children rehearsed musical drills for the innings-break performance to mark the culmination of the 45-day carnival. Indian Air Force jets flew past the stadium in a dry run for the big day.

A couple of golf carts have also been kept ready to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is expected to be present, to make a round of the stadium on Sunday.

India’s two World Cup-winning captains Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are also likely to watch the final. Will Rohit join them as the th­ird from India and end the 10-year ICC trophy drought?

Ahmedabad isn’t in the mood to even think about anything unexpected.

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