Travis Head and Pat Cummins of Australia celebrate (Picture: Getty Images)
In India they call them Jeb Katra, ‘pickpockets,’ though what Australia did to Rohit Sharma’s team in the World Cup final will feel much worse than being relieved of one’s small change after the home side had pretty much played the perfect tournament.
Has there ever been heartbreak on this scale after Pat Cummins’ Aussies beat just about everyone’s favourite last Sunday?
Forget the 130,000 stunned into a library-like silence in the Narendra Modi stadium. There was also a billion-plus TV audience, most of it wearing light blue and anticipating the glory that continues to elude this storied India team.
Never underestimate the weight of expectation such a vast following places upon a side. It can alter minds and while Australia had their most complete performance of the tournament, augmented by a brilliant chasing hundred from Travis Head, India enabled their opponents by being far too timid with the bat.
They did the same against England a year ago in the semi-final of the World T20, and lost that one too. They obviously feel the pressure of the big occasion, which is natural, but it’s as if they expect that pressure to double on their opponents.
Virat Kohli is dismissed in the final (Picture: Getty Images)
Maybe with most teams it would, but Australia live for the big occasions, their ability to turn reservation into relish legendary. This was their sixth World Cup title out of 13.
Even the master calculator, Virat Kohli, arguably the game’s greatest 50-over batsman, seemed overly restrained, as if batting on a minefield. The pitch did not look great but Cummins, having won the toss and bowled first, had factored in evening dew to help in that regard.
When it arrived (enabling balls to skid on and batsmen to better time their shots), India knew their total of 240 would not be competitive despite the pre-eminence of their bowling attack.
The 50-over format is less revered than it used to be. The rise of T20 and even shorter forms has made many question its validity, broadcasters especially.
It might get a boost after Cummins said he had ‘fallen in love with the format again’, though he did qualify his claim by saying it was the World Cup he enjoyed rather than bilateral series.
Given the boost T20 cricket got when India won the inaugural World T20 in 2007, it may have been better for the survival of 50-over cricket had the hosts won on Sunday. India’s Cricket Board and government crave populism and winning a World Cup at home, even a 50-over one, would have created a groundswell to keep the format alive for another 30 years.
Instead, 50-over cricket will no doubt join Test matches on the doom- mongers’ endangered species list, even though it remains a cut above T20 for those of us who enjoy nuance with our bat and ball.
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