Cummins pleased Australia ‘saved the best for last’

Australia weren’t the clear favourites heading into the 2023 ODI World Cup. They began their campaign with two big losses (to India and South Africa), had injury troubles, and a number of out-of-form players. And most of their wins in the league stage were not necessarily convincing. But captain Pat Cummins was pleased his side “saved the best for last” as they convincingly beat hosts India – who were unbeaten in the tournament until Sunday – by six wickets in the final to lift the ODI World Cup trophy for the sixth time.

“You’ve got to go and win a World Cup,” he said at the post-match presentation ceremony. “You just can’t wait for it to happen. And I think you got to be brave at times, you got to take the game on. And it was a real shift after those first two games. With our batting particularly, you saw the openers going out really aggressive and pretty much didn’t waver from that for the rest of the tournament.

“Think we saved our best for last. And a couple of big-match players stood up and, yeah, we’re pretty chuffed.”

Cummins also put Australia’s turnaround down to their openers’ aggressive approach. Australia’s openers finished with the best combined average of all teams, of 47.86, in the tournament and their strike rate of 111.19 was only second to India’s 116.99.

In the final, Australia found themselves in trouble when they were down 47 for 3 chasing 241. Mohammed Shami had removed David Warner for 7 in the second over and Jasprit Bumrah had Mitchell Marsh caught behind for 15. Soon after, Bumrah removed Steven Smith in the seventh over, pinning him in front for 4.

It was only after that did Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne combine for the match-winning partnership of 192, not letting India into the game at any point.

“I was one of those blokes with the hearts fluttering upstairs, I was pacing [after 47 for 3],” Cummins said. “Marnus walked in and out and a cool head straightaway. And Trav just does what he does – really brave again, he takes the game on, puts the pressure back on the bowlers. And to do it on the biggest stage shows a lot of character.”

Australia were impressive with both bat and ball, but even more with their fielding. Thirty-seven-year-old Warner in particular was electric in the outfield, flinging himself to save a number of boundaries. He wasn’t the only one. Head’s catch to dismiss Rohit Sharma must count as one of the great catches in the game’s history.

“It’s been pretty much through the whole Aussie winter away overseas playing but we’ve had a lot of success and this pips it all, this is at the top of the mountain”

Pat Cummins

“[We were] desperate for sure [on the field],” Cummins said. “It all started last week [in the semi-final against South Africa]. The boys are fantastic. And we’ve got an ageing side. But everyone’s still throwing themselves around in the game, [especially] when you got a big stadium like this packed.”

Head, who was the Player of the Match in the final for his 137 off 120 balls, was injured at the start of the World Cup. The selectors, however, persisted with him and kept him in the squad. Making his comeback only in Australia’s sixth match – against New Zealand – in the tournament, he smashed 109 off just 67 balls, playing an important hand in the five-run win. He was also the Player of the Match in the semi-final against South Africa for his all-round effort of 62 runs and two wickets.

“Amazing,” Cummins said of Head’s performance. “I think you have to give it to the selectors that backed him even when he was out with a broken hand and the medical team to get him back. It was a big risk that we took and it paid off and you couldn’t be happier for Travis, a legend. We love him and he’s easy to watch.”

Cummins had said ahead of the final there would be “nothing more satisfying” than silencing the 100,000-plus crowd in Ahmedabad. His side did that, but he also said it was a “pretty special” moment to win in front of a massive crowd despite the support being one-sided in favour of India.

“It [the crowd] was awesome, I must say,” he said. “I was pretty happy. They were solid for a lot of the bowling innings. A couple of times they got loud and it was really loud. But fantastic. I mean, the passion in India is unrivalled around the world and I think it’s amazing.

“Every single person is wearing the blue shirt. So you look around and it’s a pretty special moment – one that whatever the result happened, we’re never going to forget a day like today.”

Australia have won laurels across formats this year under Cummins’ captaincy. They became the Test world champions in June by beating India in the final, retained the Ashes in England, and have now won the ODI World Cup. For Cummins, this tops it all.

“Yeah, it’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s been pretty much through the whole Aussie winter away overseas playing but we’ve had a lot of success and this pips it all, this is at the top of the mountain.”

Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo