Skipper Pat Cummins says victory as underdogs in the World Cup final would ‘top off an incredible year’
Aussies out to foil festivities and cap ‘career-defining’ year
Pat Cummins anticipates no more satisfying feeling than silencing an army of India fans expected to number in the six figures if his side can cap a career-defining 2023 with a World Cup final triumph over the undefeated tournament hosts.
While aspirations of defeating India and England in bilateral Test campaigns were nixed despite strong showings in both campaigns, the Aussies can end their unprecedented sequence of major events by becoming the first men's team to win two ICC trophies in the same year.
Cummins is under no illusion that the largely pro-India crowd at The Oval for Australia's win in the World Test Championship final over Rohit Sharma’s men in June will be nothing compared to the fevered home support the world's largest cricket stadium will provide on Sunday.
"I think you've got to embrace it. The crowd's obviously going to be very one-sided but in sport there's nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent and that's the aim for us tomorrow," Australia's captain told reporters on the eve of the decider.
"You've just got to embrace every part of it, every part of a final. Even in the lead-up there's going to be noise and more people and interest - you just can't get overwhelmed.
"You've got to be up for it, you've got to love it and just know whatever happens is fine, but you just want to finish the day with no regrets."
The transformation of Ahmedabad's colossal saffron-hued bowl of 110,000 seats (the larger and often-spruiked capacity of 132,000 is only for political rallies when patrons are packed in on the ground itself) into an ocean of blue India jerseys is the only first part of the match’s extravaganza.
For starters, a flyover and vertical airshow from nine Indian Air Force fighter jets will preface the home team's national anthem and be watched on by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, after whom the ground is named.
After the small matter of the game's first innings is complete, there will be a return of the batmobile-style vehicle that Modi did a pre-Test hot lap in with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese before the finale of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series earlier this year.
This time, however, neither Modi nor Albanese will be taken along for the ride, nor will Albanese's deputy Richard Marles who is expected to attend the match in the Australian PM's stead.
Instead the ‘half-time’ entertainment's main attraction, renowned Bollywood composer Pritam Chakraborty, will weave his way in and out of more than 500 dancers in a fresh souped-up golf cart after the original was discarded beneath one of the stands once it had served its purpose for the India-Australia Test here in March.
Then, at the first drinks break of the second innings, around the time Cummins flagged that night-time dew will set in, a 90-second light show will engulf the arena to whet the appetite for a pre-match ceremony featuring fireworks and 1,200 drones spelling out the name of the winning side.
If the Australians need any inspiration from the procession of sideshows accompanying the actual game of cricket, they are most likely to get it from an innings-break tribute to all 10 World Cup-winning captains.
That Australia boast the most members of that illustrious group – Allan Border (1987), Steve Waugh ('99), Ricky Ponting (2003 and '07) and Michael Clarke (2015) – serves as a reminder of the rich legacy Cummins hopes to extend.
"It would be huge. We were all kids not too long ago, watching some of those great teams win the '99, 2003, 2007 World Cups," said Cummins, who was part of 2015's successful squad but missed out on playing the final at the MCG.
"That's the opportunity ahead of us tomorrow, which is really exciting.
"To be captain would be an absolute privilege to lift the trophy with these great bunch of blokes.
"It'd be awesome and in terms of the (ODI World Cups being the) pinnacle, I think it is right up there. It's got the longest history of a world event where all the teams compete.
"You only get a shot at it every four years. So even if you have a long career, you might only play in two of these events.
"2015 is still a career highlight for me, so I think tomorrow if we win, we might pip it."
Australia were yet to settle on their XI for the decider. The inclusion of Marcus Stoinis at the expense of Marnus Labuschagne will likely be the sole consideration, though dumping Labuschagne after playing every match of the tournament would be a bold call.
Cummins got his first look at the surface picked out for the match and took several photos to send back to the team's brains trust (a conversation that appeared to continue as the skipper kept typing on his phone right until his press conference commenced) before their arrival for training later in the afternoon.
A lengthy debrief with the ground's curator on Saturday morning left Cummins none the wiser as to exactly how it might play – "I'm not a great pitch reader, but it looked pretty firm" – but it is believed he paid particular attention to how the two ends of the surface had been prepared.
The 30-year-old fast bowler conceded his opponents held an advantage by playing the match on their terms and in their home conditions, though he pointed out that his side's significant experience playing in India has been a major factor in them chalking eight consecutive victories to make the final.
India have won 10 straight and, unlike the Aussies who had a number of narrow victories across their six-week campaign in addition to losing their opening two matches, have rarely looked troubled.
It has been the most dominant World Cup campaign since Australia went undefeated through the '03 and '07 tournaments, with India’s run including a six-wicket over the Aussies in Lucknow that was achieved comfortably after an early wobble in their run chase.
A win for Cummins’ men on Sunday would not only be one of cricket’s great party pooper moments, but also reward for a high-stakes run of matches in 2023.
"It's been a huge year. There are four marquee events – if you have one of those in an off-season, it's a big off-season," said Cummins.
"So being really proud of all those things, not only the wins but some of the guys have probably spent less than a couple of weeks in their own bed since the end of the Aussie summer.
"One thing that's stayed consistent has been the morale in the group. The guys have been awesome. They're so up for every game they play.
"To put ourselves in a position of this, it would just top off an incredible year and probably a career-defining year that a lot of us will look back on in years to come and be pretty proud of."
2023 ODI World Cup Finals
First semi-final: India beat New Zealand by 70 runs
Second semi-final: Australia beat South Africa by three wickets