Going against the script: Reflections on Australia’s Stunning Victory in the 2023 Cricket World Cup Final

By Navneet Ganesh
Navneet at the Narendra Modi Stadium // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
A spontaneous trip to the Final

More than a week has passed since the finale of the 2023 Cricket World Cup, yet the echoes of Australia’s triumph over India still resonate. Australia played like champions and peaked in the match that mattered the most. They outplayed India—and were deserving winners.

Life, at its essence, is a tapestry of memories and the stories we choose to preserve and share.

In the six weeks leading to the World Cup Final, a captivating narrative unfolded—a tale of a cricket team playing bold, fearless, and inspiring cricket, conquering all that lay in front of them. There was an enchantment in the air, and for a while, the script unfolded like a dream.

Unfortunately, that dream concluded under the Ahmedabad night sky.

Australia’s victory in the final defied expectations, rewriting the anticipated narrative. As I pen down these words, a T20I series is underway, with India leading 2-1 over Australia. The main players from both teams are taking a breather, seemingly an inconsequential series at first glance. However, with the looming T20 World Cup in mid-2024, the cricketing caravan continues.

Yet, as I reflect, the memories of the World Cup final in Ahmedabad persist—vivid and indelible.

My impromptu journey to witness this spectacle was fuelled by the spontaneous love for cricket. Following India’s triumphant semi-final against New Zealand, a decisive thought crystallised in my mind—I had to be in India for the World Cup Final. The last time India reached such heights was in 2011, and I watched from a friend’s living room in Australia. This time, I yearned to be part of the live audience.

The adventure commenced on a Wednesday morning before India’s semi-final, where I secured a ticket at an attractive price, hours before its value soared to thousands of dollars. Blocking seats on a Friday flight from Australia, I arrived in Mumbai on Saturday night. With just a few hours of sleep, I ventured to Ahmedabad in the morning, reaching mere hours before the Final.

This was a journey marked by spontaneity, passion, and the thrill of the unknown and above all a love of cricket.

Modi Stadium entrance // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
Australia’s Triumph against the script

In a stunning turn of events at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Australia, a seasoned contender for major titles, hushed the cricket-crazed nation of India, turning the colosseum of Indian cricket into a stage for their unexpected triumph.

This was a Final that Australia wasn’t predicted to win; they started as underdogs, yet their victory wasn’t entirely surprising. Over the years, Australia has demonstrated a knack for turning up in crucial moments and effortlessly collecting trophies.

India, riding a wave of invincibility with an unbeaten streak of ten consecutive matches, entered the Final with an aura of dominance. Their path to the final was marked by resounding victories, triumphing in diverse conditions across the country. With the tournament’s leading run-scorer and wicket-taker, they seemed destined for glory, lifting the nation’s spirits to unprecedented heights of pride and joy. The nation was at a new emotional peak and Team India was symbolic of a world beating “Made in India” product.

Despite India’s impressive journey, Australia’s meticulous analysis of the conditions positioned them as the superior team. Their decisive six-wicket victory echoed India’s commanding opening match triumph, flipping the script and allowing the underdog its day in the limelight.

The Journey: From Melbourne to Ahmedabad

My journey from Melbourne to Ahmedabad unfolded as a thrilling adventure, encompassing four flights traversing Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, and finally, Ahmedabad. The quest for tickets, initially fraught with challenges via Book My Show, took unexpected turns, culminating in a fortuitous discovery on Viagogo. Each step felt like a roll of the dice, with the ticket’s fate hanging in the balance until the eleventh hour.

The anticipation reached its peak when the ticket, shipped through Blue Dart courier service, arrived just in time at my Mumbai hotel, moments before boarding my flight from Sydney to Dubai. A heartfelt appreciation goes to the sender and the logistics system in India that ensured this timely delivery when time was of the essence.

The journey was a rollercoaster of emotions, a high-stakes gamble that ultimately paid off with a coveted seat at the World Cup Final. Once the decision to embark on this adventure was made, my resolve was to relish every moment, irrespective of the final’s unexpected outcome.

Despite Australia’s victory, an outcome contrary to expectations, being present at the event in person added an extra layer of fascination to the entire experience.

Nav & Gucci // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
The Final Act: Australia’s Mastery

“There is nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent,” Pat Cummins, Australia’s captain, had declared his intention to silence the crowd ahead of the match.

That is exactly what happened for large sections of the match.

In a masterstroke, Australia bowled first after winning the toss, and Cummins’ tactical brilliance proved pivotal.

Australia, against the odds, lifted their sixth World Cup title, defying expectations and leaving the cricketing world in awe. Cummins’ economical bowling, strategic field placements, and Head’s scintillating century defined a final that deviated from the anticipated narrative.

The Walk to the Ground: A Carnival of Optimism

Embarking on the journey to the Narendra Modi Stadium was an immersion into a carnival of boundless optimism. The entire nation, a billion-plus strong, geared up for an unparalleled celebration. Street stalls, vendors, and performers, including those showcasing the “Indian rope trick,” adorned the path, setting the stage for a festive atmosphere. Despite modifications, the stadium pulsated with fervent energy.

The Indian Airforce’s “Suryakiran” squadron dazzled the audience with aerial acrobatics, creating a brilliant and ominous pre-game air show.

The luminaries of Bollywood, from Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone to Ranveer Singh, Asha Bhosle, and Vivek Oberoi, graced the event. Sachin Tendulkar, as the ICC Ambassador, entered the ground carrying the World Cup Trophy, echoing his iconic moment in 2011.

In the political realm, figures such as Australia’s deputy PM Richard Marles, on a taxpayer-funded trip, and India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, overseeing his son Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary, added a touch of grandeur. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, draped in India Blue, would later arrive, further elevating the occasion.

The stadium was awash with a sea of blue, a testament to India’s 1.5 billion supporters globally, tuning in regardless of the time difference. In contrast, Australia, with a population comparable to greater Mumbai, paled in comparison. In the realm of support and passion, India triumphed overwhelmingly.

Regrettably, the plastic litter strewn along the path into the ground reflected a facet of India that needs alignment with its rising stature—an urgent call for improved waste management and environmental consciousness. During my visit, Mumbai and Delhi were veiled in smog, emphasising the need for concerted efforts in tackling pollution. While India rises with much to be proud of, moments like these underscore the significance of addressing environmental challenges.

I can appreciate the superior air quality we have here in Australia, and which we take for granted.

Nav Ganesh & Ravi Ashwin // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
India’s Innings: A Momentum Shift

Pat Cummins’ strategic brilliance unfolded as he opted to bowl first, laying the groundwork for a remarkable momentum shift in India’s innings. Despite Rohit Sharma’s explosive start, the momentum gradually slipped away. The partnership between Kohli and KL Rahul, while solid, lacked the required impetus, stifled by Cummins’ calculated bowling that choked the run rate, leaving India with a sub-par total of 240 runs.

Rohit Sharma’s scintillating start, propelling India to 50 in just 6.3 overs (the fastest in a men’s ODI World Cup Final), came to an abrupt halt. Sharma’s departure for 47, attempting another maximum off Maxwell, was masterfully caught by Travis Head, showcasing Australia’s fielding prowess.

India’s ‘King’ Kohli, dazzled initially with three consecutive fours off Starc, enthralling the crowd. However, Cummins’ masterful delivery, jagging back in, led to Kohli’s dismissal for 54, an innings that held the promise of much more.

Post the first powerplay, India’s boundary count dwindled to just four. Cummins strategically tightened the screws, reducing the flow of runs to a trickle. India, perhaps cautious of losing more wickets, refrained from taking on the bowlers. Despite challenging conditions, Cummins’ captaincy shone through as he strategically placed fielders and directed his bowlers to exploit the set field, further contributing to India’s restrained innings.

Stadium – India v Australia // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
Australia’s innings: Head’s Fearless cricket

As the ball was handed to India, the initial over from Bumrah unfolded in an uncharacteristic manner, conceding 15 runs. It eerily echoed memories of Zaheer Khan’s unforgettable over against Australia in the 2003 Final, which also went for 15 runs.

Despite this shaky start, India regrouped, managing to claim early wickets in the form of Warner, Marsh, and eventually, Smith. The roar of the crowd reached its crescendo with Smith’s dismissal, creating a frenzy in the stadium. At 3/47, Australia seemed vulnerable, and a sense of serious belief permeated the Indian camp.

Enter Travis Head, who had already proven to be a thorn in India’s side during the World Test Championship Final. His initial moments at the crease were nervy, with several close calls, but India couldn’t break through. As Head gained confidence, his assurance grew with each passing minute.

In a display of fearless cricket, Travis Head went on to craft a scintillating century—137 runs off 120 balls, adorned with 15 fours and 4 sixes. Partnering with Marnus Labuschagne, Head orchestrated a match-winning partnership of 192 runs, steering Australia to victory with six wickets to spare in their pursuit of India’s 240-run target.

In the span of eight hours, India’s emotional rollercoaster transitioned from joy to tears, marking the unpredictability that makes cricket a captivating spectacle.

The moment Australia won // Photo courtesy: Navneet Ganesh
The Morning After: Reflections and Regrets

As the sun rose on the morning after the final, the atmosphere at the ITC Narmada, the hotel where the Indian team had lodged, mirrored the collective disappointment of a nation. Glum faces and sombre moods permeated the air, echoing the palpable sense of regret. However, amidst the prevailing gloom, connections were forged, memories shared, and the undying spirit of cricket endured.

Among the breakfast crowd, I encountered a gentleman from Dubai on the brink of tears, shocked at India’s unexpected loss despite their stellar performance throughout the tournament. Another familiar face, Gucci Sapal, a friend from the UK, and I, who had once shared a cricket club in Melbourne back in 2005-06, reunited. Reflecting on India’s commendable campaign, we delved into the mysteries of how they slipped up in the final.

The founder of the Bharat Army, Rakesh Patel, present with a large contingent of UK fans, wore the disappointment visibly on his face. Later in the day, a chance encounter with Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, whom I had first met in Sydney in 2014, led to a light-hearted jest about his absence in the final. In the days following the World Cup, Ashwin dissected the tournament on his YouTube show, highlighting Cummins’ game-breaking spell and lauding the Australian skipper’s strategic brilliance.

Pat Cummins’ economical spell, conceding just 34 runs in 10 overs, showcased his prowess and understanding of the game. Ashwin commended Cummins’ tactics, particularly noting the absence of a mid-off throughout his spell, leaving Indian batsmen puzzled. Australia, a team that commenced the tournament with two losses, emerged as the unlikely champions, capitalising on Cummins’ exceptional performance, Travis Head’s match-winning century, and astute strategic planning.

Post-match, India’s coach Rahul Dravid acknowledged the team’s shortcomings on crucial days in important events. India, undoubtedly the team of the tournament, could benefit in future from consulting with Paddy Upton, who played a pivotal role in their triumphant 2011 World Cup campaign as a mental conditioning coach.

Despite the heartbreak in Ahmedabad, India’s journey, propelled by several players who rose to the top from modest backgrounds, remains an inspiring tale for millions across the nation.

Australia defied expectations, going against the script—testament to their resilience and in the process creating a sporting legacy of their own to be admired.

Team India provided unforgettable memories and sheer magic for weeks on end.

Ultimately, they were unstoppable. Until they were not.

About the Author: Nav Ganesh is the founder of Infinity Cricket, an entrepreneur and cricket aficionado. When not living out his cricketing dreams, he occasionally taps away at the keyboard to craft cricketing tales. He prefers typing articles to bowling underwhelming deliveries and battles writer’s block with finesse. Dive into the world of Infinity Cricket on Instagram (www.instagram.com/infinitycricket) for more cricket posts, insights, and the occasional burst of cricket-induced wit.

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