Cricket-Mad India Readies for World Cup Final Against Australia

India captain Rohit Sharma said Saturday his players understand the pressure of being Indian cricketers and remain “calm and composed” for the World Cup final against five-time champion Australia.

The hosts are undefeated in 10 matches and will eye their first global trophy in over a decade in front of around 130,000 fans at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

“Leading up to every game we have been quite composed, quite calm about what we want to do, because we know how it is outside the environment we have,” Rohit told reporters. “The expectations and the pressure, criticism and everything, so it’s important we stick to our strength and what we want to do as a team.

“Inside, what they [players] feel I can’t tell you, but when they are around the group, everybody seems to be quite relaxed and calm. Being an Indian cricketer you have [to] deal with pressure, that’s a given, it’s there,” Rohit said.

Australia team captain Pat Cummins said the immense size of the stadium will be a challenge.

“The crowd’s obviously going to be very one-sided, but in sport, there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent, and that’s the aim for us tomorrow,” he told reporters Saturday. “You’ve just got to embrace every part of a final. … You know in the lead-up there’s going to be noise and more people and interest, and you just can’t get overwhelmed.”

India last won the World Cup in 2011 at home under M.S. Dhoni with the cricket-crazy country erupting in joy as thousands took to the streets to celebrate.

Two years later, Dhoni led India to the 2013 Champions Trophy, but the cricketing powerhouse faltered at the World Cup semifinal stage in 2015 and 2019.

This time around, Rohit’s team has lived up to its billing as pre-tournament favorites with a perfect showing in the league stage and then a 70-run win over New Zealand in the semifinal.

“Emotionally it’s a big thing, a big occasion,” said 36-year-old Rohit. “So along with me, all the other 10 players who will play on the ground tomorrow, their focus will be more on their work for the team, rather than thinking about, ‘This is the biggest moment of my life.’”

Fellow cricket superpower Australia is now into its eighth World Cup final.

They have won eight matches on the bounce after two opening losses, including a six-wicket defeat to India after they were bowled out for just 199.

Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc said after his team’s semifinal win over South Africa, “India has been the best in the tournament so far, and we both find ourselves in the final. We played them in the first game of the tournament, now we get to take them on in the last. What a place to be at the end of a World Cup.”

“They’ve won eight out of eight, and they played it really well. So, it’s going to be a good contest,” said Rohit. “Both teams deserve to be at this stage playing the finals, and we understand the importance of what Australia can do. They are a very complete side, and for us, again, what is important is to focus on what we want to do as a team.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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