Rahul's painstaking 107-ball 66 innings significantly contributed to India's final score of 240.
The notion of India entering the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 final against Australia as favourites would be an understatement, given the formidable momentum of the home team. Whether Australia or South Africa emerged victorious in Eden Gardens, the outcome of the second semi-final seemed inconsequential – the prevailing attitude was a resounding “bring it on.” India had already claimed the title of champions well before the November 19 match, securing their status on November 16 with a dominant performance against New Zealand at the Wankhede.
Australia played true to their nature. Although India initiated strongly with Rohit Sharma’s customary onslaught, Australia made a comeback, systematically stifling India and capitalizing on mistakes to dismiss them for a below-par score of 240. Two days prior, the pitch curator had suggested that a defendable total of up to 315 could be achieved here, making 240 falls considerably short.
Despite India’s effort to exert pressure on Australia with three wickets in the powerplay overs, the opposition did not retreat into a defensive stance. Under Travis Head’s guidance, Australia steadily approached the Indian target and eventually secured victory with considerable ease. The 130,000-strong crowd in Ahmedabad, along with millions across the nation and the globe, experienced despair.
So, where did India falter in the game? One might say they lost it in the ‘Head’ (pun intended), but there were additional contributing factors worth examining.
KL Rahul’s Defensive Approach
There’s no sugar-coating it – Rahul’s painstaking 107-ball 66 innings significantly contributed to India’s final score of 240. While it wasn’t a pitch conducive to carefree hitting or waiting on the backfoot for runs, it also didn’t demand dropping the anchor so deep into the seabed. During the middle phase, for 97 deliveries, no boundaries were struck. After Shreyas Iyer hit a four off the final over of the first Powerplay, Rahul managed only two deliveries into the 27th over for India’s next boundary.
This isn’t to suggest that boundaries are the sole measure of scoreboard progression. Even Kohli failed to hit a boundary during that phase. While 55 runs were scored in 16.2 overs, not a bad rate for a rebuilding phase, a more assertive and courageous approach was needed in the final. Particularly for Rahul, as Kohli assumed the role of anchor and required depth in his innings.
Rahul should have adopted a counter-attacking strategy. India’s strong start was credited to Rohit’s bold approach. However, the middle phase allowed Australian bowlers to establish a rhythm and execute their plans effectively. India only lost one wicket during that period, while Kohli, at the other end, displayed enterprise with 27 runs off 37 balls, contrasting with Rahul’s 28 off 58.