December 10, 2023

Indian legends Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar say the toss and conditions beat the hosts in the World Cup final.

Australia won the toss and elected to bowl first, running out winners by six wickets in front of a stunned Ahmedabad crowd on Sunday as the chase of 241 turned into a stroll.

India struggled to get the ball away, having been put in – twice going more than an hour without a boundary in their innings – and were bowled out for the first time in the tournament.

“It was a slow surface,” Shastri said. “The Australians looked at the surface before the game started and were all very concerned.

“They made the right choice at the toss, and I thought they bowled magnificently – they used the slowness of the surface early on.

“The way they bowled to Suryakumar Yadav towards the end was brilliant as well.

“They know him so well they realised he uses pace and the pace of the ball to destroy attacks. They gave him absolutely no pace – nothing to hit with,” Shastri told the official ICC broadcast.

Former wicketkeeper Manjrekar, who played 11 times for India, was in complete agreement alongside Shastri.

“The match was so much about conditions, and when Australia won the toss, they went against the conventional wisdom of bat first and put runs on the board,” he said.

“They stuck to cricketing logic, the reality of today and the pitch that they saw.”

Much was made of the heavy dew experienced in Ahmedabad in the days leading up to the final.

There were hints of moisture at the very end of the chase, but by then, the game was already up.

“It was a decision based only on dew coming in the second half of the match,” Manjrekar, 58, continued on the broadcast.

“It was also based on the fact that when you bowl first in the afternoon with the pitch we had – slightly tacky, the sun hitting it, and the pitch continued to be dry – there was enough for the bowlers in the first half. That was the other incentive.

“There’s a bit of comfort when batting second and the dew comes, and it’s a huge bonus.

“But it’s not like it’s difficult bowling first, that you get nothing from the afternoon pitch – you’ll get plenty, we have seen that.

“The ball didn’t come onto the bat in the afternoon. We saw Indian batters struggling – stroke players struggling to get any pace at all in their shorts. That was because of the afternoon pitch.

“It became easier. There wasn’t much dew but just enough for the ball to come on to the bat.”

Manjrekar says one of the major effects of the conditions was the nullification of one of India’s key strengths – their spinners.

As a result, the middle overs overwhelmingly belonged to the Australians and the 192-run partnership in the chase between centurion Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne.

“Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja didn’t get the ball to turn, so India were beaten by conditions more than anything else really,” he said.

“It was a very smart call by Australia after winning the toss.

“India struggled to hit boundaries in the afternoon, and it was a lot easier for Australia to hit boundaries because the ball was coming onto the bat.”

If there was one criticism of the performance for Shastri, it was that India could have attacked more when Australia lost early wickets.

“The only way that you could have stopped Australia was by taking wickets,” Shastri added.

“They could have had a slip in place around the 81-3.

“In 50 overs with an asking rate of under five runs an over, it was never going to be a challenge.

“Four runs an over can come in singles, let alone boundaries.”

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