June 14, 2024

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Australia legend Jason Gillespie has backed his fellow countrymen to pull off one of the great Cricket World Cup final performances against an India side that are “ripe for the picking” on Sunday in Ahmedabad.

Gillespie, 48, himself was part of the Australian side that dominated world cricket either side of the turn of the century but injury cruelly denied him a place in the triumphant team that beat India in the 2003 final.

Hosts India have won all 10 of their matches so far at this edition and Gillespie has echoed former New Zealand allrounder James Franklin’s assertion to Al Jazeera that this is the “best” India team of all time.

Australia, meantime, squeezed past South Africa in the semifinals and the five-time champions have been beaten twice so far in this tournament – including in their opener against the hosts.

“It would go down as one of the great achievements for Australia, because no one was expecting Australia to do particularly well this World Cup,” Gillespie told Al Jazeera.

“[But] it’s always fraught with danger to write off an Australian side – doesn’t matter what format. This is what Australia are elite at. They get to World Cup finals, win World Cup finals.

“We are playing against a powerhouse – the juggernaut that is India, who have all the expectation and all the pressure on them.

“And don’t be shocked – you heard it from me – don’t be shocked if Australia just pull off one of the great World Cup final performances and come away with that ring and that World Cup.”

All eyes on Ahmedabad

Australia headed to the World Cup on the back of a 3-2 one-day international series defeat in South Africa, in which they had taken a 2-0 lead.

Their performances have grown through the World Cup in India after the opening defeats to the hosts and South Africa, which had made four losses on the bounce to the Proteas heading into the semifinal.

“Australia are just starting to peak at the absolute right time here, and India are ripe for the picking,” Gillespie continued.

“They haven’t had their banana skin game yet. Could the World Cup final be that?”

The closest that India have come to a slip-up in this World Cup was in their opening match against Australia.

Having been set a mere 200 to win, the hosts lost their first three wickets for two runs.

Star batters Virat Kohli and KL Rahul rescued the situation and set India on their way in this winning streak.

“That’ll be in the back of India’s mind,” Gillespie continued. “That and the expectation. What Australia have in their advantage is that all the pressure is on India. All the expectation of a home final.

Australia, really, have nothing to lose.

“What Australia do have in the bank is experience – they have won the World Cup many times, and India will be very, very wary of that.”

Australia need ‘early impact’

Gillespie claimed 402 wickets for Australia in an international career that spanned 1996 to 2006 for the fast bowler.

In his opinion, fellow seamers – Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in particular – have elevated this India team to the finest the country has produced.

The batters have stolen most of the headlines, though.

Kohli reached a record 50 ODI centuries when he brought up three figures in the semifinal, surpassing Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar’s 49.

India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, has also been pivotal at the top in this tournament.

The 36-year-old opener has increased his strike rate significantly to 124 from his overall career average of 91.

Rohit was one of the three to fall early in the opening match against Australia and Gillespie feels Australia need to get him out early again.

“Rohit is a legend. He is leading from the front and imposing himself. Australia need to expose the Indian middle order with early wickets,” he said.

“If the ball is moving slightly off the straight, whether it’s through the air or off the pitch … then Josh Hazlewood is a great matchup against Rohit.

“But also, Mitchell Starc bowling fast, full, swinging the ball back into Rohit could pose a real danger for him. Australia will be well aware of that.

“Let’s get Kohli out there early. Let’s put him under the pump.

“As I said, expectation does funny things with 1.5 billion people willing India on.

“If Australia can make an impact early, expose that Indian middle order early, I think there’ll be some squeaky-bottom time for the Indian cricket team.”

‘One of the great upsets’

So what is it about the small nation of 25 million people that has seen them lift five World Cups to India, a country of 1.5 billion, who have two titles to their name?

“It’s clear minds, it’s energy, it’s belief and confidence that comes from evidence, doesn’t it?” Gillespie surmised.

“The evidence is there – Australia have been there and done that. They’ve succeeded in all conditions all over the world.

“And what that evidence does is it gives you confidence. It gives you the belief.

“That’s what the Australian dressing room’s about. And it’s representing our wonderful country. It’s the steps you take to get there. It’s the fabric of what we’re about and how we go about things.

“I’m all buzzing. I’m really excited for this World Cup final – I think it’s going to be an absolute humdinger.

“Give India credit, they’ve been incredible, and deservedly should be favourites for this game. But Australia have been at the big dance many, many times, and they’ve won many, many times.

“India haven’t done that many, many times.

“I reckon there’s a real chance that Australia could just pull off one of the great upsets.”



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