Buoyed by their eight straight wins and a glorious record in the tournament history, five-time champions Australia will fancy their chances of spoiling India’s party in the World Cup final at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.
But Dilip Vengsarkar, a former India captain and a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, believes the momentum is clearly with India and not Australia.
“Don’t forget India is the unbeaten team in this tournament, not Australia. India have won 10 matches in a row. I don’t know how many times it has happened in a World Cup that a team reached the final without losing a match,” Vengsarkar told the Khaleej Times over the phone from India on Saturday.
“Of course, it’s a good Australian team, they have made a strong comeback after losing the first two matches. They have a good batting unit, their bowling is good too,” he added.
“But this Australian team is not as strong as those great Australian teams of the past. There are some weak areas in this team.
“They have just one good spinner in Adam Zampa. And even though they did well against South Africa in the semis, overall their fast bowlers have not been as effective as India’s.
“In batting, they have David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell. It’s a good batting line-up, but the Indian spinners are bowling so well, so it’s not going to be easy for them.”
The former Indian chief selector, though, admitted that the first Powerplay (the first 10 overs in both innings with field restrictions) will be crucial.
Australia will be hoping to negate the threat of Indian captain Rohit Sharma who has been outstanding in the first 10 overs, giving India flying starts in the tournament with his scintillating stroke-play.
Even in the semifinal against New Zealand, it was Rohit who set the tempo with a 29-ball 47 that eventually helped India post a massive total of 397 for four.
But can he do that again in a match as big as the World Cup final against Australia?
“Look, Rohit is a big match player, if you see his record. He always performs in big matches, whether it’s a World Cup match or a Test match,” Vengsarkar said.
“But yes, the first 10 overs in the Powerplay will be very important. Rohit has been fantastic in this tournament, Gill has also played superbly in the last match. Both are in superb form.
“Then you have the middle-order where every batsman is scoring runs. Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar (Yadav), it’s a very solid batting lineup.
“So even if Plan A doesn’t work, Plan B is always there for this team. Of course, we all hope that the openers give India a great start again, but we don’t need to worry in case of early wickets because India have all the bases covered.
“This team also have excellent spinners, the fast bowlers are delivering as a group and the batting is solid. All they need to do now is play one more match (against Australia in the final) positively and aggressively.”
Vengsarkar then doffed his hat to Mohammed Shami, who has taken 23 wickets in just six matches despite missing out on the first four matches.
“He has been outstanding in this tournament. What I like about him is his attitude. You know I always tell the young cricketers in my coaching academy that when you get an opportunity, you have to grab it with both hands and deliver in big games. That’s exactly what Mohammed Shami has done in the tournament,” the legendary Indian batsman said.
“He only got an opportunity after Hardik Pandya got injured. But once he got that opportunity, he has performed brilliantly. He has been positive, he is aggressive and he is always attacking.
“And of course, he is a hugely experienced bowler now. He has been playing for years now. I hope he delivers again in the final tomorrow.”
Shami and his teammates will also have the support of the strongest 12th man in the game’s history — the 132,000 cricket-crazy Indians at the stadium on Sunday.
“It’s definitely going to be a huge advantage for India. The Indian fans will come out in huge numbers,” he said.
“And they are not only from India, but they come from all over the world, they all support the Indian team, and they all wear the blue jersey.
“They are going to create an incredible atmosphere on the ground.”