Dubai: In a high-pressure World Cup final little margins determine the winners from losers. And when hosts India take on Australia in Ahmedabad later today, both teams must have been prepared to tackle the other in the best possible way to get the early advantage, Gulf News takes a look at five key battles that will swing the match in one way or the other
Kohli vs Hazlewood
Virat Kohli has been in the form of his life and the World Cup leading run-getter has been anchoring the Indian innings with great alacrity. But he faces the biggest test today in the form of Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood. The two have been playing together for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League over the last couple of seasons and know each other very well. Hazlewood has dismissed Kohli five times in his career and that includes the league match in Chennai with a short ball when the Indian talisman had taken the hosts closer to the victory in a low-scoring game. Things could have gone wrong had Mitchell Marsh taken a simple chance at square leg off Kohli when the Australian pacer had tested him with a short-pitched delivery when he was just 12, but making the most of the reprieve, he went on to score 85. Hazlewood will once again try the short-pitched delivery in the final to break India’s back.
Smith vs Jadeja
Steve Smith is crucial for Australia. The 34-year-old has a great temperament and will be able to alter his innings to suit the needs. He has the capability to manoeuvre the ball on the cricket field and has the power to play the big shots. He is particularly good against spin bowling, which is key on Indian wickets. However, he faces his biggest nemesis in Ravindra Jadeja, who has dismissed the Australian 11 times in his career. When Smith was threatening to take the match away in the opener in Chennai on October 8, Jadeja bowled a beauty to dislodge the stumps and help India wrest back the initiative. Smith will be watchful against Jadeja, however should Ravichandran Ashwin too play in the final, then it will be twin-spin trouble for Smith as the off-spinner has dismissed him on eight occasions.
Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma has been giving the hosts a blistering start in this World Cup, which has been throwing the rivals off the track. His knock in the final is extremely crucial as it gives the rest of the Indian batters the cushion to pace their innings. However, if there is one big weakness in Rohits game, then that it is against the left-arm pacers. He has been dismissed 33 times in his career by left-arm pacers and struggles when the ball drafts in late around the off-stump. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc all have done it in the past and recently Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Dilshan Madhushanka exposed the weakness in the league game. Starc will be looking to probe that weakness of Rohit in the final to push India on the backfoot.
Indian pacers vs Australian openers
The pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami has been giving India the early breakthroughs right through this World Cup. It was Bumrah who dismissed Mitchell Marsh early in the league game against Australia to push the five-time champions on the backfoot. Australia bank heavily on left-handed openers David Warner and Travis Head to give them a good start. Both attacking batters will be eager to take on the Indian pacers. However, with Shami in stunning form with 23 wickets in just six matches including a seven-wicket haul in the semi-finals against New Zealand. While Bumrah takes the ball away late from the left-handers Shami has the ability to bring it in with his late outswingers. It will be a challenge for the Australian openers to get the freedom that they generally would get to operate.
Shreyas vs Zampa, Maxwell vs Kuldeep
Shreyas Iyer is one of the best players of spin bowling and with Australia having just one regular spinner in Adam Zampa, it will be a worry for Australia if the 28-year-old Indian batter stays for a long time. Shreyas, who has scored 526 runs so far including two centuries and three 50s in the 10 matches, has the ability to hit huge sixes with ease. The Australian leg-spinner is coming into the contest after a lacklustre show against South Africa in the semi-finals where he was not able to make a mark on a turning track, which will put Zampa under immense pressure. Similarly, Glenn Maxwell is another good player of spin in the Australian ranks. The middle-order batter exhibited his devastating best during his unbeaten 201 against Afghanistan in the league game. However, he will have to be careful against Kuldeep Yadav, who is in good rhythm this World Cup and the left-arm wrist spinner will be hoping to repeat what South African spinner Tabraiz Shamsi did when he dismissed Maxwell early. Shamsi and Kuldeep are the two left-arm wrist spinners in this World Cup and not many are plying the art in the world today, so Kuldeep will be the trumpcard Rohit would want to use against Maxwell.