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ICC World Cup: India and Australia to play final at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad this afternoon

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In Gujarat, all preparations are in place for the Cricket World Cup Final to be played between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad this afternoon. As distinguished guests including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles are expected to watch the match, tight security arrangements have been made. An airshow has been organised before the match. The Suryakiran aerobatic team of the Indian Air Force will be performing at the Stadium.

A large number of Indians are also coming from abroad to see the match. Western Railways is running three pairs of superfast special trains between Mumbai Central-Ahmedabad, Bandra Terminus-Ahmedabad and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT)-Ahmedabad at special fares to accommodate the extra crowd of cricket fans.

Several players that stepped down the 80-odd stairs from the dressing rooms nestled high up beyond the sightscreen and onto the sprawling oval of the Narendra Modi Stadium took a few fleeting extra seconds to take in their surroundings before proceeding with their tune-up sessions.

Perhaps, it was that inescapable passing thought about a World Cup final and how everything they’ve done till now – picking up a bat or a ball, that first boundary, that first appeal, the sweat, the tears and the sweet joy of that imaginary six hit to win the World Cup – will all be telescoped into these next few hours. Or maybe, all they were looking at was the new paraphernalia that had sprung up at the mega structure readying itself for a glitzy curtain call.

For neither side is stranger to this stage. Certainly not Australia, who are doing this for the eighth time. They have picked up World Cups like how some #wanderlusts collect souvenir fridge magnets on their journeys: in Kolkata, London, Johannesburg, Barbados and Melbourne. For so many teams, playing a World Cup final is an occasion. For Australia, it’s a way of life. And still, their journey to this point was riddled with uncertainty.

They lost their first two games, nearly lost after scoring 388, nearly lost after being 91/7 in a chase of 291 and nearly lost after reducing their opponent to 24/4 inside the first hour of the semi final. Yet here they are, nearly champions. In a year that has already seen them retain the Ashes in England and win the World Test Championship, who can truly count against them to complete a three-year run of world titles in each format of the game?

Even with such pedigree, Pat Cummins and Co. will concede that it is their opponents that perhaps start as favourites on Sunday, and not only because they are riding a blue wave at home. Even those who usually barrack against Indian teams will appreciate the precision and panache with which this particular version has operated, much like those utterly dominant, unbeaten campaigns put together by Australia at the turn of the millennium. And it is the thread of Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid here that is an interesting one to tug at. This captain-coach pair has made no attempts to hide just how important an attacking brand of play is and marrying that with well-defined roles and outstanding individual talent has lent India an aura of invincibility.

But Dravid and Rohit come from a show-and-tell country. Chasing excellence may be preached in Bollywood movies, but success is still measured in certificates and silverware, unfortunate as it may sound. For posterity to look back on this team to have been the most dominant ODI side assembled by this country, for Rohit to be bracketed alongside Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni, scorecards and statistics alone may not cut it.

Anecdotes won’t either. Stories of the captain’s remarkable take-down of New Zealand in the semifinal, Shami’s first-ball strikes, Kohli’s 100s, his almost 100s, and Bumrah’s magic will be recalled more fondly around a fireplace if the trophy sits on the mantelpiece. India certainly don’t possess any divine right to success and the captain and coach will agree that they can only pave the path for change, which they have done and how. The best way of now scripting the perfect ending would be to play like there are no endings at all.

This World Cup didn’t quite get running until these two heavyweights made their bows in Chennai. It won’t end until these two have had their final say. The feats of the one returning empty-handed from Motera will be tinged in disappointment. An 11-kilo mass of gold and silver plating will offer the ultimate reflection for those of the other.


India Squad: Rohit Sharma(c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul(w), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna

Australia Squad: Travis Head, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis(w), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins(c), Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Sean Abbott, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Cameron Green

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