World Cup: India losing the toss was a huge factor in the final | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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World Cup: India losing the toss was a huge factor in the final

BySanjay Manjrekar, New Delhi
Nov 20, 2023 08:43 PM IST

It was actually a ‘win-win’ scenario for the team bowling first. After that it was all about execution, writes Sanjay Manjrekar.

Australia did the exact opposite of what South Africa does, they raised their game when it mattered. India obviously would be hurting from the result in the final but in time they will find peace in the fact that a champion cricketing nation beat them.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid after India lost the World Cup final(PTI)
Indian captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid after India lost the World Cup final(PTI)

It’s six World Cup titles for Australia now. Next best are India and West Indies with two each. The big takeaway for me from Ahmedabad was how an unconvincing entrant into the final was able to reach true excellence when generally a stage like this gets most to fumble.

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This unprecedented performance of Australia in this World Cup started even before the first ball was bowled. One of the most brilliant decisions you will see was taken at the toss, and I said this on the TV coverage the moment Pat Cummins said we will field first.

The pitch was tacky, a bit rough on the top and likely to turn from ball one, so Australia wasn’t really taking a huge risk by going against the cliché of putting runs on the board in the big game.

They knew their pacers would get some lateral movement in the afternoon, plus the sandpaper like top meant that reverse swing could come into play with Mitchell Starc as one of the best exponents of it in the world in their side; also, the slower balls were going to be a great option to go to if nothing else worked.

If dew comes in later, batting was bound to get easier, the ball wasn’t going to turn as much, plus the slower ball as a lifesaver for the seamer when nothing works was not going to be an option.

It was actually a ‘win-win’ scenario for the team bowling first. After that it was all about execution. And that’s where Australia just nailed it! The big moment for me was when Travis Head ran the way he did, backwards, and took that Rohit catch.

It was as much about great athleticism as it was great temperament and the ‘champion DNA’ that Australian cricketers tend to have. At that moment in front of around 100,000 people, Head was thinking nothing else, not the stage, not whose catch it was, he was just driven to do the seemingly impossible because it just needed to be done.

India losing the toss, for me was huge factor, all of us who saw the pitch before the match felt that it just gave the weaker team, Australia, more ammunition.

Let me give you an example. The rough surface meant the ball moved off the seam a little and also didn’t skid onto the bat in the afternoon.

That phenomenon took care of Shreyas Iyer. Reverse swing got KL Rahul. A slow afternoon pitch also meant a batting unit concerned about not losing wickets managed to hit two boundaries in 29 overs.

India’s final hope Surya also could not produce his T20 magic, because of the sluggishness of the pitch, so it was impossible for India to recover after losing early wickets to get a score that would be out of reach of a team chasing under lights in much improved batting conditions.

A good batting pitch and India would have managed to get over 300 and then we would have seen a better contest. This unique surface meant the toss suddenly became a game changer and Australia made their own luck by opting to bowl first.

Don’t think too many other teams would have gone against conventional wisdom, but Australia did. To put it simply, the 10/10 India was beaten by the conditions first and then by a team who when it mattered, had individuals who dug deep to find the champion within.

I believe India are still the best 50 overs team in the world, just that they don’t have the World Cup to show for it.

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