Cricket World Cup final: India's Rohit Sharma ready to carry hopes of a nation

Home skipper staying ice cool as excitement builds ahead of clash with Australia

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India captain Rohit Sharma insists he and his players will stay "calm and composed" amid the mounting hysteria ahead of Sunday's Cricket World Cup final in Ahmedabad.

The in-form hosts face five-time champions Australia with a cricket-obsessed nation of more than a billion people hoping, praying and perhaps in some cases expecting a victory.

More than 130,000 of those will be shoehorned into Narendra Modi Stadium, the biggest cricket stadium in the world, as India look to seal their third World Cup triumph and second on home soil following their success in 2011.

Understandably, many of the questions at Rohit's pre-match press conference focused on the almost unfathomable pressure those circumstances must create.

Yet while acknowledging the gargantuan scale of the event, the India captain did his best to remain stoic.

“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,” he said.

“But the biggest challenge for professional athletes is how they can put all this aside and focus on their work. So along with me, all the other 10 players who will play tomorrow, 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 that. 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 tomorrow. 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 tomorrow.”

India last lifted the trophy 12 years ago under the stewardship of MS Dhoni, sparking memorable scenes of celebration all over the country. Two years later, Dhoni led India to the 2013 Champions Trophy in England, but the cricketing superpower blew up at the World Cup semi-final stage in both 2015 and 2019.

This time, Rohit's team has marched imperiously towards the final with 10 straight wins, sweeping aside the competition and more than justifying the pre-tournament hype.

But if India have been the tournament's outstanding team, Australia have been its second best. The Baggy Greens 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.

"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."

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Updated: November 19, 2023, 3:40 AM