Australia is hopeful that they will achieve their best victory in the World Cup, despite facing increased pressure from India.
The day prior to the World Cup championship, the immense stadium in Ahmedabad appears vast. In the absence of people, its vastness is even more apparent. It stands tall on all sides, with seats that shine a bright orange in the sunlight. Children dressed in white on the field practice flag routines as the loudspeaker plays music throughout the empty concrete corridors. The following day, these seats are expected to be occupied and for the Australian visitors, it will be a test of their endurance against intimidation.
In the 2015 final, Australia dominated with a massive crowd of over 93,000 at the MCG. The majority of fans were wearing gold clothing, outnumbering those in black. New Zealand struggled in this environment. The upcoming crowd will be even more intense, with a sea of blue uniforms and only Virat or Rohit shirts to differentiate between them at a ratio of approximately nine to one.
Australia has participated in eight World Cup finals, winning five times, but they have never faced a situation like this before. In 1975, when the tournament was a new and intriguing concept, West Indies was not the dominant team they later became, and the final was held at the posh Lord’s venue. When Australia beat England in 1987, it was in an unfamiliar location for both teams, Kolkata. The three consecutive wins in 1999, 2003, and 2007 were against Pakistan in England, India in South Africa, and Sri Lanka in Barbados, respectively, all of which were not their usual playing grounds. The only instance where the location caused difficulties beyond the event itself was in Lahore in 1996, where the home crowd and authorities favored Sri Lanka and Australia ended up losing.
In India, the team will encounter not only a highly supportive audience, but also a larger sense of political dominance. Instead of being held at one of India’s renowned stadiums – Eden Gardens, Chinnaswamy, or Wankhede – it is being played in the stronghold of the ruling political party. The stadium was named after the country’s prime minister by the Gujarat Cricket Association, which is overseen by his home minister and the minister’s son. The son was subsequently chosen to lead the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The International Cricket Council board, led by the BCCI, will vote to suspend Sri Lanka Cricket for violating its responsibilities as a member to prevent government interference, just two days after the final match.
For India’s massive state‑political-sporting apparatus, whose supporters meet criticism by decrying the intrusion of politics into sport, a win will be symbolic vindication: India as rising global power, triumphing over those relics of colonialism now left in its considerable dust.
The event guide for the final, known as the “New India” branding exercise, has been created by BCCI stenographers and is presented on official ICC letterhead. The repeated emphasis on the stadium being the largest in the world suggests a desire to make up for something. There is a strong desire for magnificence, both in the present moment and for the stadium itself. This coronation is seen as a way to establish the stadium as a significant historical landmark and bring prestige to its name and followers.
The outcome of the game holds great importance for many beyond just the players representing India. Unfortunately, this moment is being exploited in a negative manner, similar to how nationalism can corrupt symbols such as flags and anthems in any country. This exclusion of millions of other supporters who simply admire the Indian team is a disservice, as the players have consistently demonstrated brilliance, ferocity, and steadfastness over the past few years. Their momentum has been building and is now reaching its peak. The batting has been a perfect blend of ruthlessness and grace, while the bowlers work in perfect harmony, particularly the performances of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. As a collective unit, these players are a joy to watch and are too talented to not emerge victorious.
Australia’s potential saving grace in this uneven match is that, in a sense, the outcome is inconsequential for them. Reaching the finals is a noteworthy accomplishment and from that point on, chance takes over. They will give their all on game day, but a defeat will not have lasting repercussions. Seven of the starting eleven have previous experience winning this tournament. While it would be satisfying to win again, their recent comeback in the India Tests and victories in the World Test Championship and an away Ashes series have made this year a success regardless of the final result.
India is under pressure as they face Australia, but this pressure is unlikely to affect their performance. Despite traveling and being featured on billboards, the team has a strong fan base and has experience playing in the IPL finals. They are expected to have another successful performance and solidify their reputation.
Australia is actively seeking opportunities to disrupt the balance, such as setting up obstacles in the streets or disrupting the flow of things. While a victory would not necessarily make this their strongest World Cup team, it would certainly be their most impressive World Cup win.