The last time India won an ODI World Cup title 12 years ago, Suresh Raina was one of the prominent members of the side. Throughout that tournament, India handled pressure well and made sure there were no slip-ups.
As the Men in Blue square off against Australia in yet another World Cup final at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday, Raina believes that it will be an aggressive battle between Indian captain Rohit Sharma and the Australian team.
“Our team looks very strong, under Rohit’s leadership. It has all bases covered, but then, Australia is an aggressive team. So, it will eventually come down to a battle between an aggressive team and an aggressive captain,” Raina told Sportstar.
Having seen Rohit evolve as a cricketer, Raina believes that it is important to keep calm ahead of the marquee fixture and cut out the noise. “Rohit loves playing against Australia and even has a double century against them. Rohit recently told the media that whatever the situation, the team has to be calm, and that’s certainly the key. If you remain calm in high-pressure matches, results will follow,” Raina said.
“Only if you are calm, you can make the right decisions. India has the edge because Australia is already worried about our bowling attack with (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammed) Shami, and Kuldeep (Yadav) around. These three bowlers are going to trouble the Aussie batters…”
However, with Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa around, Australia, too, will be hoping to continue its dream run. “I saw pictures of the Ahmedabad surface where they were using heavy rollers. If you are doing heavy rolling, then it will be a wicket similar to the one where we had the India vs Pakistan game. It will be a tad slow, and whichever team wins, they will hope to put runs on the board and put pressure on the opponent,” Raina said.
And, in such a scenario, the former India international expects the team to bat first, putting up a total of around 350 and then unleashing its bowlers. However, in big-ticket events, things may often fall off the plan, and that’s where, Raina believes, the middle order needs to step up.
“Virat and Rohit are always doing well. But my main guys will be Suryakumar (Yadav) and Shreyas Iyer. They both play aggressively. Our top two - Shubman Gill and Rohit - are doing well anyway, but in the final, it needs to be seen how the middle-order - especially Shreyas and Surya - handle pressure in case a few wickets fall early on,” Raina said.
“In big matches, we need to factor in everything. It depends on how their body and mind align. Even Gill will be crucial for a steady start. He knows the conditions well since he plays for Gujarat Titans and has done really well…”
Though there are debates on whether India should bring in the seasoned Ravichandran Ashwin for the final, Raina feels otherwise. “I don’t think they will change the winning combination against Australia. You can’t take any chances against such a team with just two fast bowlers in the ranks,” he said.
“Had Hardik (Pandya) been around, it would have been a different thing. But I think India will go with the same team, and I doubt that they will bring in Ashwin, by replacing Siraj. Siraj has done well, except for the semifinal against New Zealand - that, too, in the last few overs.
“Siraj’s ability to swing and seam will help India in these conditions. One should keep in mind how he bowled Babar Azam beautifully at the same ground last month. So, he will come in handy,” Raina said.
Back in 2011, India suffered a loss against South Africa in a group league game, while the game against England was a tie. However, the team bounced back and went on to clinch the title. It has been a different story this time around with the team winning all its 10 games - including the semifinal, and Raina believes there won’t be any pressure on the players, leading up to the big game.
“The team has done well - winning all its 10 games, there hasn’t been any ups and downs. When the final starts, they will get used to it…” he said.
The nation would hope so, too.
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