Travis Head & Co. shattered a billion dreams and inflicted collective grief on India on Sunday ©AFP
The nation may have plunged into a state of collective grief as India succumbed to a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Australia in Ahmedabad on Sunday night. Close to one lakh people at the Narendra Modi Stadium represented the country’s somber mood as Rohit Sharma & Co. walked out of the colossal complex with slouched shoulders and shattered morale. The poignancy at the ground reflected the atmosphere of a funeral.
Many pockets of the packed stadium looked empty much before the last ball was bowled and not too many were left in the ground to witness the fireworks and trophy presentation. Ian Smith, commenting on air, did not forget to mention this after Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne killed India’s hopes with a defiant partnership and reveling in adversity.
The happiness of the home crowd was short-lived and Australia, now the six-time champions, achieved their target with method, discipline and a no-nonsense approach. For the record, they won the final by six wickets with Travis Head hammering a brilliant century (137), one of the finest in World Cup history.
The mood in the afternoon was rather upbeat; a stunning airshow and a slew of celebrities in varying colors and hues kept the stadium interested. With Rohit Sharma typically going on the attack, it was party time at the ground in the afternoon. The Stadium DJ added to the festive ambiance with foot-tapping and chart-busting numbers, and it looked like the stadium, the city, and the nation were in for a long celebratory night. So one thought, but it turned out to be a day dream.
The deafening crescendo soon transformed into deafening silence as Indian wickets started tumbling. The scorching mid-afternoon sun added to the inherent pain among the people who began to be restive as Indian batters continued to struggle in the middle and boundaries became difficult to come by.
An air of pessimism may have already crept in by the mid-innings break as the general consensus was that it was not a big enough total. The colorful cultural event also failed to lift the spirits of the crowd too much and it soon became a reality that 240 was not sufficient for a side that is considered knockout giants in world cricket.
In the end, Pat Cummins seemed to have had the last word. The day before the final, he had said nothing pleases a professional sportsperson more than silencing a partisan crowd. In his own words, “The crowd’s obviously going to be very one-sided but it’s also in sport there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent and that’s the aim for us tomorrow.” He accomplished that with a perfect display of leadership skills and utilisation of his resources in the most hostile atmosphere.
The Australians, vulnerable for most of the World Cup, achieved what was thought to be near impossible in the tournament – beating an in-form India at home. Cummins not only had the last word but also the last laugh. An Australian win was against the run of play – India were overwhelming odds-on favourites. Australia’s win thus, would go down as an upset in the context of this fixture. And it silenced one-sixth of the world’s population.
Labuschagne said what it meant for the Aussies. “An unbelievable achievement,” he said. “I wanted to be part of it. They (India) have been the team of the tournament. We knew if we play our best cricket we could beat them. It is great to be part of this team,” Labuschagne, who stitched together a 192-run partnership with Head for the fourth wicket, said.
Labuschagene’s position in the side was doubtful once Head returned to the side but Australia took all the right calls for the final. “I don’t have too many words to explain,” Labuschagne said. Head, declared Player of the Match, added, “Never expected this, not in a million years, truly an exceptional day. (I’m) really glad to contribute. It was a great decision to bowl first after winning the toss, it paid dividends. Nice to be a part of it and play a role in all of that.”
As Glenn Maxwell hit the winning runs around 9.20 PM on Sunday night, an elated Australian team engulfed themselves in revelry and celebration in the middle of the ground. It was much past midnight back home in Australia and Ricky Ponting on air still felt half of Australia would have been watching the final. When the other half of Australia wakes up in the morning, they could find themselves in a different world altogether.