Australia's fielding came to the fore when it mattered the most after a horror start to the tournament
Legends laud Australia’s return to ‘pack mentality’ fielding
Multiple World Cup-winning captains have lauded Australia's "intensity and attitude in the field" as one of the key reasons Pat Cummins' side lifted the trophy on Sunday evening.
It was a dramatic turnaround for the Aussies in the oft-forgotten facet of the game, who looked a shadow of their best in losses to India and South Africa that were marred by dropped catches and misfields.
Former captain Aaron Finch said Australia looked "flat" after the loss to the Proteas in Lucknow and World Cup winner Shane Watson said that they didn't look "desperate enough to really put it all on the line".
And several in the Australian camp agreed, including coach Andrew McDonald.
"I thought the fielding tonight wasn't a true reflection of the quality of skills we do have," McDonald told reporters after the loss to South Africa.
"We put down six-odd chances … that was really disappointing, that effort in the field."
That performance represented the lowest point for Australia's fielding and overall fortunes.
However an upward trajectory began at the same venue four days later, shortly after Sri Lanka had raced to 0-125.
David Warner, stationed at deep square leg, grabbed two brilliant running catches in the space of six overs to remove Pathum Nissanka (on 61 at the time) and the in-form Kusal Mendis, who had smashed 122 off 77 balls against Pakistan six days earlier.
World Cup winning captain Steve Waugh took to Instagram to label Warner's dual efforts the "turning point of the campaign"; Sri Lanka lost 10-84 and Australia’s ensuing victory kick-started a nine-match winning streak.
Come Sunday in Ahmedabad and the opposition top order had Cummins’ side under pressure once again with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli flying along at eight runs per over in the Powerplay.
And despite the occasion, the heat, the crowd and the pressure, the Australian fielders had a field day.
"Their intensity and attitude in the field really kept them in the game," Ricky Ponting, another World Cup-winning captain, said after Australia's victory.
In the first two overs alone, Travis Head at deep point, Pat Cummins at mid off and Adam Zampa at third man had all pulled off boundary-saving dives.
And it was Head, who was still in Australia when his side's fielding woes were at their worst, who personified the greatly improved outfield intensity with a stunning catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma inside the Powerplay.
Running backwards from cover, Head hurled himself onto the giant sponsors' logos square of the wicket, sparking massive celebrations from the Australians.
Warner explained to the ICC Review podcast that the group effort was all part of a concerted ploy to not just stifle the Indian batters, but the Indian crowd.
"We spoke about last game the energy in the field and (the) need to be up and we showcased that," Warner said.
"We felt like when we were bowling during the day it was hard to get up and have that energy because when a few boundaries happen, it gets loud, everyone’s moving and (we) forget that pack mentality.
"It wasn’t by fluke that we came out and did it.
"We had the ball going to the right areas where we could stretch out, dive, stop.
"Collectively, that gets the bowlers going, they put the balls in the right spot and that’s where the support is for the fielders."
The strangulation worked, with India managing only two boundaries between overs 11-40, keeping the hosts to a manageable total and severely limiting the influence of the patriotic crowd who found very little to holler about.
According to statistics provided by Opta, Australia finished the tournament as the third-best catching side, with a catch success rate of 81.6 per cent, a massive jump up from the untidy 57.1 per cent they registered from their first two losses.
The Aussies also led the 'runs saved' category counted by Opta, with their effort of 14 runs saved in the field in the final rated the fourth-highest in a single innings during the entire tournament.
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