ODI World Cup final: Rohit vs Starc, Kohli vs Zampa and other battles to look out for

After a shaky start, Australia have gone from strength to strength to reach the final


It's a battle of the biggies on November 19 - two teams with an eventful history. Australia and India met twice in the 2003 edition of the ICC World Cup. In the first match, the Aussies, led by Ricky Ponting, hammered the Men in Blue by nine wickets, while in the final, India were thrashed by 125 runs.

Interestingly, two decades later, it's the Men in Blue who have the upper hand, having thumped the Aussies in the league stage, and making the final undefeated.

However, Pat Cummins's men have shown their critics that form is temporary but class is permanent. After a shaky start, the Australians have gone from strength to strength to reach the final.

As the familiar foes gear up for the big match at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, here's a look at a few match-ups, the outcome of which may decide the outcome of the final.

Travis Head vs Jasprit Bumrah

Mitchell Marsh may be an aggressive opener, but Travis Head is a cut above him. So much so that he has pushed Marsh down to the number three position. In Head and David Warner, Australia have two aggressive openers who can throw caution to the winds and seize the initiative early in the final. Head is brimming with confidence, having smashed a quickfire half-century against the Proteas in the semifinal.

But he will be facing Jasprit Bumrah, one of the best in the business. With 18 wickets and the tournament's best economy rate of 3.98 (if we look beyond Ravichandran Ashwin's 3.4o, in the only match he played), Bumrah will be a huge challenge for both Head and Warner (interestingly, the left-hander has not yet been dismissed by Bumrah). His trademark yorkers, slow dippers and swinging deliveries will be quite a handful for Head. But, if Head takes Bumrah head on and succeeds, India will have a tough time containing the onslaught that follows.

Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc

Yes, Rohit Sharma is vulnerable against left-arm pacers. Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi showed it. Probably why the Indian skipper had come out all guns blazing against him and New Zealand's Trent Boult in this tournament.

Australia's pace duo of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc may have only 14 and 13 wickets to show in the run-up to the final, but they will pose a major hurdle for Sharma and his opening partner Shubman Gill. Starc's ability to swing the ball into the right-hander, and his toe-crushers, will test Sharma and the right-hand heavy Indian top order. In ODIs, he has been dismissed 33 times by left-arm pacers - 22 in the first 10 overs. But, Hazlewood is no pushover. With the focus on Starc, he might well do the damage with his seam movement off the pitch. In fact, in the league stage match, he dismissed Sharma for a nought. The Indian skipper's high-risk approach throughout the tournament has helped the team, but it remains to be seen if he would go with the same strategy in a final and against two highly skilled pacers.

Glenn Maxwell vs Kuldeep Yadav/Ravindra Jadeja

Maxwell exploited Afghanistan's inexperience to smash the historic double ton, many argue. And his 40-ball ton, the fastest in ODI history, was against an inexperienced Netherlands, they add.

But there's no denying that Maxwell's presence in the middle is a nightmare for the spinners. With his reverse sweeps and switch-hits, along with the regular hack down the ground, the all-rounder can turn around the match in a jiffy. In eight innings in the tournament, the right-hander averages 66.33 at a strike rate of 150.

Luckily for India, Rohit Sharma has seen a lot of Maxwell in the IPL, and has two wily spinners up his sleeve – Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. Yadav, in particular, has been a revelation this year. His leg-breaks and wrong 'uns will come in handy against Maxwell, who loves to use his crease to launch the ball into the orbit. And Jadeja will probably rely on bowling wicket-to-wicket, varying his pace and length and hoping that Maxwell mis-hits or misses one.

And, if Maxwell still comes up on top, then Sharma always has Shami at his disposal, who can fox Maxwell with his slower ones.

Virat Kohli vs Adam Zampa

One is the top run-scorer in this tournament, and the other is just one scalp behind the top wicket-taker in this World Cup. It will be as much as a battle of skills as it will be of wits between Kohli and Zampa.

Kohli (711 runs) has been the anchor for the Indian team, with the rest of the batters playing around him. Along with Sharma's explosive approach at the top, this strategy has worked wonders for India. If the Australian pacers cannot get the Indian openers and Kohli early, the responsibility will fall on the leg-spinner's shoulders. The 35-year-old has been dismissed 18 times by leg-spinners, of which five were against Zampa. He played the leggie well in the league stage match, scoring 24 off 23 balls.

Kohli fans can take heart from the fact that he has played spin well in this tournament, giving away his wicket only once – to the Netherlands' Roelof van der Merwe.

Pat Cummins vs Shreyas Iyer/K.L. Rahul

The Australian skipper has been effective with the ball mid-innings and towards the end. In the semifinal against South Africa, the pacer sent David Miller packing, thus denying South Africa a later flourish in the final overs, which would have proved the difference in the low-scoring thriller.

Cummins will be up against some serious firepower in the form of Shreyas Iyer (526 runs) and K.L. Rahul (386 runs). The Indian middle-order has played the perfect foil to the top order, building partnerships or providing the big hits towards the end as and when needed. Add to it, Suryakumar Yadav's pyrotechnics, and we are talking business here. The Indian batting lineup is a well-oiled machine, and it will take some doing from Cummins to throw a spanner in the works. The Aussie skipper may have only 13 wickets to show for his efforts so far, but it would be naïve to write him off. Cummins will rely on slow balls and short-pitched deliveries to get the Indian middle order in a knot.

Can Cummins and co. lift the trophy? It will be a Herculean task against the marauding Indians, no doubt, but if they win these battles, one never knows.

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