So Australia will face India for the Cricket World Cup trophy on Sunday, in India, under the watchful eye of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his eponymous stadium in Ahmedabad.
This India side have won all 10 games in the tournament at a canter and were also accused of cherry-picking pitches to suit them ahead of their 70-run semi-final win over New Zealand.
In short, the odds look thoroughly in the home side’s favour ahead of this final.
Yet bookmakers have given Australia around a 30 per cent chance of winning, perhaps more than most would, highlighting that there is still a solid chance of the five-time champions winning a sixth.
Here are five ways Pat Cummins’ green and gold army could beat this steamroller of an India side.
Exploit Indian overconfidence
India will know as much as the rest of us this is their final to lose. They have the better bowling and batting attack, home advantage, stronger individual players in the prime of their careers and an unbeaten record. There’s a fair argument that the only team who could beat them are themselves.
A lot has been made pre-final of the need to get a loss in somewhere, get your “one” out of the way before the big games hit to fine-tune your flaws and re-motivate the players. But India haven’t done that, or even really come close. Perhaps this is something Australia can exploit.
India are yet to really be tested and will be put under added pressure by Modi’s presence. If the Aussies can add to that pressure themselves, bowl potentially risky wicket-taking balls and encourage the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to take them on and make mistakes in the progress, then India could be architects of their own downfall. They will want to put on a show – Australia cannot let them.
Alongside this, India’s long tail has barely had a bat all tournament, which means if the Aussies can pick up some cheap wickets from overconfident batters who aren’t used to this pressure, it could trigger a collapse.
Maintain pressure in the middle overs
Whether with the bat or the ball, a strong start is crucial for Australia.
In the previous game between these two sides, their respective first outings of the tournament, the Aussies had India 4 for 3 before Kohli and KL Rahul scored 85 and 97* respectively to easily chase 199. In Australia’s semi-final win over South Africa, they then reduced the Proteas for 24 for 4, before David Miller’s century made it appear competitive.
So the Australians’ issue isn’t starting well, it’s maintaining their great starts. They cannot afford to blow sides away early on, then simply let them back into the game. This will be Cummins’ responsibility, both as a captain and a bowler, to be more effective in taking wickets and utilising his spin options.
Equally, with the bat they have struggled to capitalise on strong starts too. It has been a matter of either-or, with either opening trio Travis Head, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh leaving their teammates with little to do, or leaving Glenn Maxwell and Josh Inglis with everything to do.
Finding some balance between the two and not relying on one or the other seems key.
The Narendra Modi Stadium has hosted four games so far this World Cup, and the chasing side has won three of them. Dew doesn’t really come into consideration in Ahmedabad, so that shouldn’t put Australia off chasing either.
Yes, the Australians aren’t best chasing, but Kohli is, so you want to avoid that scenario if at all possible. Given how well Australia have been starting with the ball, they can put India under pressure from the off and try to take advantage of potential early nerves.
Swing hard (unless you’re Smith or Labuschagne)
Most of this Australian side aren’t built to build innings. They’re all-out attackers, boundary-hitters, s**t-or-busters. They have to play their natural game, be allowed to let the shackles off and take the game to India.
This is the benefit of having Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne to anchor while everyone else can cut loose. Admittedly neither of them have done a great job up to this point, but now’s the time for one of them to hold together an innings where everyone else is going hard.
If they do this from early on, they can disrupt the Indian bowling attack.
Restructure the global game and reset the power balance
This one’s probably the most feasible. If by 8.30am GMT on Sunday, Australia can wrestle control of the global game from the BCCI, rebalance the ICC funding and produce a comparable talent infrastructure Down Under, then they’d probably have a good chance of winning this.
However, if they don’t manage it, their chances do appear incredibly slim.