Tension and excitement are mounting across the country as unbeaten India face five-time champions Australia in the 50-over World Cup final at the world's largest cricket stadium in front of 1,00,000 cheering fans on Sunday (November 19, 2023).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be present in the stadium named after him to witness the final which India reached after defeating the strong New Zealand side by 70 runs in a thrilling semi-final clash in Mumbai last week.
The venue of the semi-final clash-Wankhede-remains nostalgic for every Indian fan as MS Dhoni and his brigade defeated Sri Lanka in 2011 to lift the World Cup for the second time in the history of the game. Before the sparkling night in Mumbai, India had to wait patiently for 28 years to bring back the trophy which was won by Kapil Dev and his heroes in 1983 in England by beating two-time champions West Indies.
This time it is skipper Rohit Sharma who is leading the country for the first time in the showpiece event and fans are expecting a repeat of 2011 in Ahmedabad, especially after the Men In Blue put up a dominant show all through the tournament by winning 10 matches they have played so far.
The 11th victory in Ahmedabad will ensure India their third World Cup title while Australia is hunting for their sixth, having won the trophy last time on their home ground in 2015.
Both teams failed to cross the semi-final hurdle in the 2019 edition of the tournament when Australians were defeated by arch-rival England in the last-four stage while India faltered in front of the Kiwi challenge.
Ghost of 2003 and 2015
Australia, considered one of the toughest cricket-playing sides in modern days, shattered the dreams of millions of Indians in 2003 by beating Sourav Ganguly and his young Indian squad in the World Cup final to lift the title for the third time since the tournament started its journey in 1975.
In 2015, MS Dhoni's hope of defending the title was crushed by Australia on their home turf when Michael Clarke's men beat the reigning champions by 95 runs.
Sunday's final is seen by Indian fans as a chance for the Men in Blue to seek revenge against a team which has been dominating the 50-over format ever since it won its first World Cup title in India in 1987.
What did the skippers say before the match?
Australian captain Pat Cummins, who is leading the World Cup for the first time like his rival Rohit Sharma, promised to give India a strong challenge and silence the home team supporting crowd in the grand stadium in Gujarat which is hosting the mega final for the first time.
Eden Gardens in Kolkata and Mumbai's Wankhede had hosted the final in 1987 and 2011.
Cummins was quoted as saying by media: "The crowd is obviously going to be very one-sided, but in sport, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent and that's the aim for us tomorrow," Cummins said on Saturday."
"You've just got to embrace every part of a final," he said.
"Even in the lead-up, there is going to be noise and more people and interest and you just can't get overwhelmed, you have got to be up for it and you have got to love it," Cummins said.
"And just know whatever happens, it's fine. You just want to finish the day with no regrets," he said.
Undefeated skipper Rohit Sharma said he wants to win the silverware in honour of Indian cricket icon- coach and former skipper Rahul Dravid.
"His [Dravid's] role has been absolutely massive in terms of getting that clarity which I keep talking about," Rohit stated. "It's one thing for me to think about and another thing for the coach to not agree to certain things.
"Clearly, looking at how Rahul bhai himself has played his cricket and how I play these days is quite contrasting. For him to agree and give me that freedom and liberty to go and play like that says a lot about him."
Under the leadership of Rohit and Dravid, India managed to make it to the semi-final of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 but fell short against England.
The Indian captain glowingly spoke about how the coach has helped the team bounce back thereafter in the months leading to the 2023 World Cup.
"Also the way he has stood by the players in difficult times, especially during and after the T20 World Cup," Rohit added. "We had a good run up until the semi-finals and then we lost. And how he reacted to certain situations and informed the players about how we want to play says a lot about him as well.
"And obviously what he has done for Indian cricket is massive. He too feels that he wants to be a part of this big occasion. It's for us to do it for him."
Among all the Indian batters, who all have contributed heavily to the team’s terrific run in this World Cup, cricket icon Virat Kohli stands tall at the top scoring over 700 runs in this World Cup so far.
Kohli, who along with skipper Rohit Sharma forms the crux of Indian batting, on Wednesday (November 15, 2023) surpassed legend Sachin Tendulkar’s record 49 One Day International (ODI) hundreds to become the first to hit 50 centuries in the shorter format of the sport.
Shami, who dashed New Zealand's hope to reach the final by picking seven of ten wickets alone, will surely be Rohit's biggest bet against Australia along with premier fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.
Though Australia, as many would claim, looked like a shadow of their past, India will not forget how Glenn Maxwell steered his team to a stunning win over Afghanistan slamming an unbeaten 201 in a group league match.
A grand closing ceremony
Apart from PM Modi, all World Cup winning captains Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ricky Ponting, Clive Lloyd, Steve Waugh, Michael Clarke, Eoin Morgan, other ex-cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and several Bollywood personalities will be in attendance.
The closing ceremony of the World Cup has been divided into four parts, which will be held at the start of the match, during the innings break, drinks break during the second innings and post-match.
An acrobatic air show for ten minutes by the Indian Air Force at 12:30 pm, a parade of all World Cup winning captains along with a musical performance at the innings break, a light and a laser show at the drinks break during the second match and a fireworks show post-match will be held as planned.