Tick. Tick. Tick!!! As the clock keeps ticking and time for the first ball to be bowled the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 final draws near, hearts of many a million Indians fans are beating faster. For Australia, it is pretty much a usual day in the office. It’s the thirteenth edition of the ODI World Cup and their eighth appearance in the final. What’s the big deal, they could very well turn up and say. Sporting success is not unusual to an Aussie sports lover.
The same, however, cannot be said about India. Australia with a population of over 2.6 crore (March 2023), as per the Australian Bureau Of Statistics, have 546 Olympic medals to their credit. India, the world’s most populous country with over 140 crore people, have only 35 Olympic medals to celebrate. We have a lot of work to do before we can all ourselves a sporting nation. Aspiring to be one, Yes. But not quite there yet.
Cricket, though, is one sport in which India has done well. But then there is no world title won by the men’s team for many years now even in a sport in which it is one of the powerhouses, and one that is compared to being a religion in this part of world. It has been a heartbreak across formats ever since their ICC Champions Trophy victory in 2013.
The T20 World Cup final in 2014, the ODI World Cup semifinal in 2015, the T20 World Cup semifinal in 2016, the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017, the ODI World Cup semifinal in 2019, the group-stage matches against Pakistan and New Zealand in T20 World Cup 2021, the T20 World Cup 2022 semifinal, the ICC World Test Championship finals in both the cycles, 2019-21 and 2021-23 — India lost them all, coming close in mostly all these competitions barring one but then going on to lose when it mattered the most.
What has made these defeats difficult to forget is the fact that the team had shown no signs of it in the build-up to these events. They have won bilateral tournaments for fun and yet succumbed to defeats in most of these knockout fixtures by a massive margin. This time around, India finds itself in an ODI World Cup final for the first time in 12 years. The last time they made the final, they won the trophy. On that occasion too, the World Cup was staged at their own backyard — the second time it was ever won by a host nation, after Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but with the titular contest happening in Pakistan. Australia won it when they were the co-hosts in 2015 with the final in Melbourne, and England in 2019 with the final at Lord’s, London.
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The Jinxes Are Broken This World Cup
This World Cup has been a tournament where India have broken several jinxes so far. Before the tournament had started, India had not beaten New Zealand in an ICC event in two decades, had never reached a World Cup final undefeated, and had failed to go past the semifinal in their previous two attempts despite finishing at the top of the points table both in 2015 and 2019. All of that is now a thing of the past with a few hours remaining for the start of the titular contest.
The team under Rohit Sharma has beaten New Zealand twice in this tournament itself. They defeated them once in the group stage and once in the semis to become the first team to reach the final. They have won 10 matches in a row, broken their previous record of most wins in a row in a single edition of a World Cup, and dominated every other opposition on their way to the final.
All but one jinx now remains to be broken, which would decide their fate in the tournament — the Richard Kettleborough curse.
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The Richard Kettleborough Curse
Notably, the International Cricket Council (ICC) appointed Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth as the on-field umpires for the summit clash between India and Australia. When there is a big match, rationale and logic could go for a toss even for international sportspersons, let alone fans, some of whom don’t watch the match, would sit at a particular place, observe a fast, and indulge in their own superstitions, taking no chance whatsoever and doing their bit to make sure their team wins.
And so apparently Kettleborough — the English umpire — has somehow found himself to be umpiring in ICC knockout fixtures in which the result has not gone India’s way. Fans are concerned that as he has been ‘unlucky’ for Team India in the past — with the team losing several knockout ICC fixtures in which Kettleborough was the umpire, including the loss to Australia in the 2015 World Cup semifinal.
Hey Bhagwan, why is this guy still here in India? He should have left with the English team by now, right? 😉#RichardKettleborough #INDvsAUS #WorldcupFinal #NarendraModiStadium pic.twitter.com/vMh9pYcmcg
— Sann (@san_x_m) November 17, 2023
There is every reason to believe why this Indian team could suddenly transform Kettleborough into the mojo and the last piece of the puzzle as India look to beat the Aussies to win their third World Cup, much like how the Kangaroos had beaten The Men in Blue in 2003 to claim their third title in a repeat of the Johannesburg final in Ahmedabad.