Rohit Sharma
Can Rohit Sharma (above) emulate Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in winning the World Cup? India’s captain is certainly working at it as he attends a practice session at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 18, 2023. India meet Australia in the final on November 19, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Cricket World Cup memories are long in India. The image of Kapil Dev trundling back at square-leg to catch Vivian Richards in the 1983 Lord’s final is seared in India’s collective mind. So is the image of Gordon Greenidge being bowled after shouldering arms to a Balwinder Singh Sandhu inswinger.

Twenty-28 years later, Mahendra Singh Dhoni swung a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery into the Wankhede Stadium stands to spark delirium in Mumbai and the rest of India. The image of Virat Kohli carrying Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders, as the players did a lap of honour in 2011, still brings goosebumps to every Indian.

Cut to 2023. The Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. What will happen here? Can India win the World Cup a third time? Can we add more frenzied scenes of celebrations to our memories?

What’s India’s gameplan?

India stand on the cusp of their third World Cup win. Only Australia stand between them and the joy of 1.4 billion people. Captain Rohit Sharma is fully aware of the enormity of the occasion. Don’t be swayed by words of calm in the dressing room. He’s equally conscious of the collective stress of the nation. But he knows it needs cool heads to get the job done.

For, Australia are no pushovers. The bulldog spirit of the Baggy Greens is well known. South Africa got a taste of that in the semifinals at the Eden Gardens. So India will be wary.

Wary they will be. But they won’t ditch the methods that fetched 10 wins in a row. Wins that showed that they are the cocks of the walk. They need to do just that. Go hard. Unrelenting in attack and ruthless in executing their plans. They will have the full-throated support of 130,000 people in the stadium and the prayers of a billion.

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So expect Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to turn up the heat from the get-go, secure in the knowledge that Virat Kohli will play the ringmaster’s role to perfection. Then there’s Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, and Suryakumar Yadav to pick up the tempo.

Jasprit Bumrah will be there to nip off the early aggression of Australian openers David Warner and Travis Head, and Mohammad Shami will have to account for the dangerous Mitchell Marsh. If Kuldeep Yadav’s googly takes care of the “Big Show” Glenn Maxwell, India would soon be dancing the night away. The jiving won’t stop as it spills into the streets and gullies across the country.

Hey, stop dreaming. There’s 100 overs to go. Let’s switch over to Motera. The action starts at 12.30pm UAE. Once you take your position on the couch, don’t move. Don’t jinx it. Krishnamachari Srikkant will tell you why. If you still don’t know, watch a rerun of the movie 83.

Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Singh held the World Cup aloft. Can Rohit Sharma emulate them? Will the 12-year title drought end? India awaits with bated breath.