The sound of silence in a colosseum-like environment can sometimes be as defeaning as a roar. That’s what it was like at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday when Australia marched towards victory and smashed India by six wickets in the final for their sixth ODI World Cup crown.
But it was much before Australia reached the 241-run target that silence had
been descending upon the 90,000-plus that turned up for the decider.
Getting his field placings accurate and almost all bowling changes right, Australia captain Pat Cummins starred with the ball too: first, inducing a nick from the bat of
the in-form Shreyas Iyer and then extracting awkward bounce to knock over a well-set Virat Kohli.
Dismissing Kohli after he has gone past fifty is one of the toughest things for a bowler, but Cummins could do it. Rather, he had to, as he knew he needed to stand up for his team in the game that counts.
No wonder there was pin-drop silence at the stadium when Cummins landed those double blows. The partisan crowd couldn’t make much noise for most of the time since then as Cummins and his teammates called the shots on most occasions.
Obviously, Travis Head’s splendid counter-attacking 137 braving a pressure situation and Marnus Labuschagne’s brilliant assist (58 not out) made the run chase easier for the Australians. But on top of everything stood out Cummins’ leadership.
Earlier in the year, when Australia got thrashed by India on those rank turners in Nagpur and New Delhi in their 2-1 Test series defeat, Cummins and his captaincy drew flak. But since then he kept pulling himself up, up and up.
His decision to skip the IPL this year for the World Test Championship final at The Oval in June, a strenuous Ashes in England and the ODI World Cup thereafter was a conscious call, which proved to be right in the end. In the Ashes, which Australia retained following a 2-2 result, and in the World Cup, Cummins remained injury-free while his workload never propped up as an aspect that needed to be looked into.
Talking about how he delivered on-field, prudent utilisation of Scott Boland in the Test Championship final hurt India while in the Ashes, his unbeaten 44 in the unbroken 55-run ninth-wicket stand with Nathan Lyon in the series opener in Birmingham was massive in Australia not losing the Urn.
Cummins’ numbers (15 wickets and 128 runs) in the just-concluded Cup haven’t really been outstanding. But in the all-important final, he delivered a 10-over spell with two vital wickets and without conceding a single boundary, which too turned out to be a recipe for Australia’s triumph.
But prior to that, what shines just as bright was his unbeaten 68-ball 12 not out against Afghanistan, a vigil that was huge to supporting a rampant but limping Glenn Maxwell whose 201 not out earned Australia a much-needed win.
If not for Cummins’ determination and rock-solid defence, Maxwell’s Herculean effort too may not have been enough and who knows, Australia’s semi-final hopes could well have gone up in smoke.
These apart, Cummins also proved he was wise enough to back Head for the World Cup. It was a risk that he, head coach Andrew McDonald and selector George Bailey took even after Head had sustained a left-hand injury just a month ahead of the Cup.
“A lot of credit should also go to Andrew McDonald and George Bailey, the selectors, to take a punt. He (Head) had a broken hand for half of the tournament, but to keep him in the squad was a huge risk. And the medical team was fantastic obviously to get him into a place where he could perform.
“I think we could have been made to look really silly if that didn’t pay off, but you got to take those risks to win a tournament,” Cummins said on Sunday night.
In the coming T20Is against India beginning in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, Cummins won’t be around as Matthew Wade is set to lead Australia. But there’s a fair possibility of his return in IPL 2024 as some of the franchises may bid big for Cummins in the auction next month.
Melbourne: Australia’s former Test skipper Tim Paine has praised Pat Cummins for his exemplary leadership and performance with the ball after their triumphant World Cup campaign in India.
“When we won the toss, I think Pat Cummins shocked everyone a bit with the call to bowl first,” Paine told SEN Radio. “They obviously had some terrific mail — and they all have a lot of IPL experience and have been there — the mail on that ground is that the dew comes in and it is extremely hard to bowl in the second innings, and I think we saw that,” he added.
“I don’t think there was a thing that Pat Cummins got wrong. He was outstanding and he deserves a lot of credit for that. Andrew McDonald and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for that.”