Two decades apart, India again ran into Australia in a World Cup final and the result was the same. In the 2003 edition’s climax at Johannesburg, Ricky Ponting’s men were an overwhelming opposition. The latest summit clash at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium proved no different as Pat Cummins and his men remained equally indomitable. In both championships, the force seemed to be with India until the final hurdle. Sourav Ganguly then, Rohit Sharma now, are the anguished captains. The Men in Blue were in terrific form all through this World Cup, the batters and bowlers had this aura of invincibility, 10 matches were won on the trot and even Australia was vanquished in the early part of the campaign. To defeat all rivals in a round-robin league phase reflected India’s consistency but as Australia showed yet again, finals of multi-team ICC events throw up unique challenges. The men from Down Under have now won six World Cups and Cummins, their current skipper, has grown in stature. Sunday’s final on a sluggish pitch with dry spots affected India’s free-flowing batters. Even if Rohit, Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul scored, the others found their timings going awry. A total of 240 was not enough to test the Australians later at night especially with the dew kicking in.
Reducing Australia to 47 for three, India had a window of opportunity but Travis Head shut that door, with one of the finest tons in the history of World Cup finals. The southpaw’s 137 will be spoken about for long. But perhaps the game’s turning point was when he took a diving catch to end Rohit’s belligerent knock: India froze. Australia’s great win leaned heavily on its incredible fielding. When Allan Border lifted the World Cup at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in 1987, it signalled a new phase of Australian dominance. With Cummins doing the same, it just reiterated his nation’s leading position in cricket. Meanwhile, Kohli found no consolation in winning the Player of the Tournament award and coach Rahul Dravid spoke about emotions running high in the Indian dressing room. Playing that 2003 final, and having now observed how his wards ran into the Aussies all over again, Dravid was full of empathy. This World Cup could be the last for a golden generation of Indian stars as Rohit, Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin and a few others are unlikely to be around for the 2027 edition at South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. India’s ICC title drought since 2013 continues but there was no shame in the latest defeat as the better team won.