Big story tellers emerge as India is just one step away from winning World Cup

India dominates, England flops, Afghanistan arrives and Kohli shines. This is the story in short of the matches played on the World Cup scene till India and Australia meet on the big stage at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. India emerged a dominant force and maintained their perfect record by thrashing everybody in the knock out stage. It remained well above the rest of the world all through the tournament. This position would have been forgotten if India lost to New Zealand in semi- final match played at the star-studded Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, on November 15. Both components of India’s batting, the top and the middle order, have smoked fire on the opponents and even then, it is the bowling attack that has proven to be far more important. Beating the Indian side will be no mean task.

Big story tellers emerged for India from these matches. It drew every Indian irrespective of their age. We saw Saurav Ganguly’s shirtless act at Lord’s Stadium, from a lad of 10 years on the semi- final day. Such is the insanity we have for cricket. On Sunday, all roads lead to Rome and the rest stay put at home donning the Indian team T-shirts. I am one of those septuagenarian mad cricket fans from the days of Gundappa Vishwanath. Now I have become a fan of Rohit Sharma and his boys who showed exemplary action on the field and touched the hearts of crores of Indians all over the world.

Virat Kohli has made history as he notched up his 50th ODI cricket. He achieved the feat during India vs New Zealand World Cup semis 2023. At Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, Kohli had levelled his idol Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of 49 centuries in his 463 match ODI career. However, scoring 113-ball 118 vs Kiwis, Kohli has become the batter with highest ODI tons, surpassing Sachin’s all-time tally. After he scored his historic ton, the entire Wankhede Stadium saw an electrifying ambience. Kohli jumped in the air to celebrate his ton. He then paid tribute to Sachin by bowing down to him. It was like the ‘KING’ prostrating in front of ‘GOD’. As the milestone unfolded, Harsha Bhogle’s commentary made it ten times memorable. Here is how Bhogle described Kohli’s 50th ODI ton. “Number 50 arrives for Virat Kohli and he stands alone aloft on that summit. Nobody else there. And that feeling of achievement will be tinged with a little bit of humility with the fact that he has gone past someone he absolutely adored. But what a career this is, 50 one-day hundreds; fifty, let that just sink in a little bit’, said Harsha Bhogle from the commentary box. The World Cup may go down as KOHLI’s World Cup. He even took a wicket, his first in ODI’s since 2014. The other batters cannot be left behind who emerged victorious in this tournament. Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill and Jadeja tormented the opponents with their repertoire of strokes and propelled India to the top.

After the entertaining show by the Indian batters, the bowlers Shami, Siraj, Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav so far took control in their hands. Shami who did not play the first four matches in this ICC World Cup proved his worth in the team. Shami’s ability to move the ball both ways in the evening that has made the 33-year-old lethal and dangerous. His strength is his seam and he never compromised on that. He never compromises with his seam position, even if he gets hit. No use of cross seam or wobble seam, he believes it is used only by cowards.

It was during the lockdown period in 2020, when Muhammed Shami started working on his white ball bowling. Every morning he kept six white balls in a bucket full of water. It was during that time that he prepared a cricket pitch with flood lights at his farm house. He used to bowl with those white balls at night continuously for 3 to 4 hours. He got rid of the red ball bowler tag and clean bowled his critics. It took him 3 years to master the white ball. Hats off to his grit, determination and persistence, India got a deadly bowler in Shami. He is a real perfectionist in how he releases the ball. It was amazing to watch him do this magic. Shami picked up his 7th wicket against New Zealand and punched India’s ticket to Ahmedabad. Shami’s position and bowling action not only garnered a massive fan base in India but has also become a subject of interest at the University of Tasmania. Mohammed Siraj known as ‘Miyan’ among the players, has shown variation in his bowling and is also capable of handling the swing with the new ball and shown signs of India’s future pace bowling department.

India is at the top now and is rearing to show its might on Sunday and be at the top of the world. There are other teams that need to be thought of. Afghanistan have come of age. They showed that their lack of ODI cricket experience does not mean they can be taken lightly. Four wins in a row and all of a sudden, they were in the race for semis. They would have been in pole position to that as well had it not been for Glenn Maxwell unleashing the volley of runs and his hurricane batting. Afghanistan, for so long an easy beat in international cricket, is now a team widely admired because of its journey to the elite. This is the team that has come a long way quickly in the face of many challenges.

England, the defending champion, were out of the race in the initial knockout stage and it also left England facing the ignominy of missing out on qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy. South Africa entered the record books with the highest tournament total of 428 in a 102-run win. South Africa would have been considered India’s greatest challengers in the finals had they not been humbled by the hosts in a 243, run defeat as they were bowled out for 83 in Kolkata and they lost in semis being beaten by Australia to reach the final.

Hosts India alongside Australia will compete for the trophy and battle for the crown of World Champions. Fans! Be ready with your pads on, on Sunday, lest you may be timed out if late to watch the excited and electrifying match. Who will be first among equals? Is there anyone to stop the unstoppable and indefatigable MEN in BLUE from lifting the trophy?

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