Rohit Sharma hopes India can keep their emotions in check during the “biggest moment of their lives” as the unbeaten hosts face Australia in Sunday’s Cricket World Cup final in Ahmedabad.
India have won all 10 of their matches at this year’s tournament, including a six-wicket victory over Australia in their opening group encounter in Chennai, with Virat Kohli piling on 711 runs, including a record 50th ODI hundred, at an average of 101.57 and Mohammed Shami taking 23 wickets at 9.13.
Rohit’s men are now aiming to emulate the India class of 2011, of which Kohli was a part, by winning a World Cup on home soil.
There will not be much calm at the Narendra Modi Stadium when over 100,000 spectators, most of them Indian, pack the stands but the skipper wants his side to keep cool.
Rohit, whose nation also won the World Cup in England in 1983: “Emotionally it’s a big thing, a big occasion. Whatever hard work and dreams you have, you have for this.
“That day is in front of us. But the biggest challenge for professional athletes is how they can put all this aside and focus on their work.
“Their focus will be more on their work for the team, rather than thinking, ‘this is the biggest moment of my life’. Of course it is, there is no doubt. In the back of the mind it is there, you can’t hide from it.
“But it’s really important to remain calm in such situations because if you are calm and composed, then you can play your role and you can make good decisions in the pressure situation.
“The occasion is very big. You don’t get such occasions every time. You don’t get a chance to play in the finals every time. Since childhood, I’ve grown up watching the 50-over World Cup so, for me, this is the biggest moment.
“But I know that I have to focus on what my team needs me to do. And I want to put aside everything else for a while.
“I know the importance [of the final] so I just want to keep it nice and relaxed and calm and not get too emotional thinking about what happened in 2011 or what can happen.”
‘There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent’
Australia are out to mute the partisan home crowd as they target a record-extending sixth World Cup title – a triumph that was hard to envisage after they began their competition with back-to-back defeats, to India and South Africa.
Pat Cummins’ side have since embarked on an eight-match winning streak, with a three-wicket win over South Africa in Kolkata on Thursday taking the team into an eighth World Cup final.
They may be underdogs but the occasion should not faze them.
Cummins said: “I think you’ve got to embrace it. The crowd’s 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.
“Every part of a final, even in the lead-up, there’s going to be noise, more people, more interest. You just can’t get overwhelmed.
“You’ve got to be up for it, you’ve got to love it and just know whatever happens it’s fine. You just want to finish the day with no regrets.
“We play over here in India a lot so the noise is not something new. I think on this scale it’s probably bigger than we would have experienced before but it’s not something totally foreign to what we’ve had before.
“Everyone deals with it slightly differently, you’ll see Davey [David Warner] probably dancing and winning the crowd over and other guys just staying in their own bubble, but it should be good.”
“To be captain would be an absolute privilege to lift the trophy with these great bunch of blokes. It’d be awesome and in terms of the pinnacle, I think it is right up there.
“It’s got the longest history of a world event where all the teams compete and you only get a shot at it every four years.
“[Winning the World Cup in 2015] is still a career highlight for me, so I think if we win here, that might pip it.”
Pressure? Injuries? Where might Australia find an edge?
Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton:
“India are unquestionably the team of the tournament but they’re coming up against a team that probably more than any other knows how to win tournaments.
“They have a squad populated by players who know how to do it, including seven survivors of the 2015 World Cup-winning squad. They are battle-hardened and experienced, but they are coming up against a form horse.
“It will probably be the most partisan World Cup final there’s ever been given the capacity of the crowd so can India adapt to the pressure of the situation? We saw them do it seamlessly in the semi-final [against New Zealand] but they’ve got to go out and do it again.
“Also, if any of India’s bowlers has a slight niggle or goes down with injury, they’ve got threadbare resources, with only five bowlers. There are a couple of areas Australia will look at and think, ‘there’s possibilities there’.
“Australia have some very dangerous players in powerplay with bat and ball. Think of Mitchell Marsh, Warner, Travis Head, they really go at it aggressively.
“Bowling-wise, if there’s anything there, any swing in the pitch – as we saw in the semi-final versus South Africa – Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood don’t miss a beat with the ball either.”
Watch the Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia live on Sky Sports Cricket from 7.30am on Sunday (8.30am first ball). Hindi coverage starts at 8.20am on Sky Sports Mix.