By Saurabh Kumar: 23 March 2003 to June 7, 2023: 7381 days after the heartbreak of the Men’s ODI World Cup final against Australia, a different generation of Indian cricketers will take on the Australian side in the final of the World Test Championship 2023 at a neutral venue, i.e London’s Kia Oval.
The 23rd of March 2003 is a date that most Indian cricket fans would prefer to forget, as the agonizing loss of the ODI World Cup final against Australia is still vivid in many people’s minds. What happened on March 23, 2003, was grueling for an Indian fan. Australia got off to a fast start, scoring 105 runs in 14 overs thanks to Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.
Harbhajan Singh terminated Gilchrist’s stay, and the spinner also dismissed Hayden to give India some impetus. Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn, who were merciless on the Indian bowlers, put an end to that fast. Ponting scored 140 runs off 121 balls, hitting four boundaries and eight sixes. Martyn was unbeaten on 88 as Australia amassed a massive 359 in 50 overs.
Chasing 360, Indian hopes were dashed in the first over when Sachin was bowled out by his archrival Glenn McGrath. Apart from Sehwag and Dravid, none of the other Indian hitters provided much fight as the Australian bowlers ran through them. Australia successfully defended their title with a 125-run win in one of the most one-sided finals in ICC history.
RAHUL DRAVID’s INDIA EYE REDEMPTION
Two decades have passed by since that heartbreaking loss to Ricky Ponting’s dominant side. But the loss remains fresh in every Indian cricket fan’s memory. The landscape of cricket and the India vs Australia rivalry has now reached never-seen-before heights. In fact, if the 2003 final was a David vs Goliath battle, the WTC 2023 Final is one of the most anticipated clashes of the lot. And no, it’s not the verbal spats, it’s the quality of cricketers on display, the see-saw matches, the stakes at play, and new players claiming world supremacy with every passing series.
However, there is one similarity, as Rahul Dravid, who played the final as a player, is now the head coach. He of all people knows what it means to lose an ICC final to Australia. For him and the rest of the Indian fans, it’s time for redemption.
10 years since India last won a major ICC title in 2013, when they won the Champions Trophy in England. Since then, the team has lost three finals and been eliminated in four semifinals. The Indian team also suffered a humiliating Super 12 exit in the 2021 T20 World Cup. The country has largely driven the sport’s financing, and with the massive skill pool available, expectations of dominating the game on the pitch appear reasonable.
If we look at this cycle, the sole series loss for India came in South Africa, which resulted in an unexpected change of guard, with Rohit Sharma taking over the leadership role from Virat Kohli. They were unbeatable at home, drew a hard-fought series in England, and survived a scare in Bangladesh. Winning significant trophies defines a team’s history, but regardless of the outcome of the final at The Oval, India head coach Rahul Dravid’s assessment of his players will not change.
Australia: Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Josh Inglis, Todd Murphy, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
Reserves: Mitch Marsh, Matt Renshaw
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, KS Bharat, Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Ishan Kishan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammad Shami, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadakt, Umesh Yadav.
Reserves: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Mukesh Kumar, Suryakumar Yadav.