Let’s get one thing straight. Irrespective of the result tomorrow, New Zealand, very much like the last time the World Cup was played down under – in 1992, have stamped their authority on this tournament. They have totally owned the tournament, much like their heroes 23 years ago. However, they will be the first to acknowledge that winning the hearts of fans all over the World – precious as it may be will feel incomplete if they cannot get a closure on the field.
Ever since they firs stepped on the field this tournament, New Zealand have played with a collective swag that would make Viv Richards proud. McCullum has led the team with the same verve that he brings to his batting. To his team’s credit, they have been able to deliver at the high pressure situations that invariably come with the high risk game New Zealand have been following.
In the final, New Zealand will face a team that has the capability to meet the fire that the Kiwis bring with firepower of their own. If there is one thing that gets the Australians’ goat, it is a team that puts them on the back foot like this Kiwi team has been doing to their opponents. Neither team will be willing to let the other team get a firm hold on the game as that could mean the first step towards a precipitous path to defeat.
One of the critical factors in the final will be how New Zealand will handle the transition from the smaller grounds at home to the Colosseum that is the MCG. This could be a major challenge for teams at the best of times. In a World Cup final? It could be as gigantic as scaling the Everest, itself. New Zealand will be backing themselves to over come this hurdle – monstrous as it may be- with the same adventurous spirit that has put them at the threshold of being the World Cup Champions.
An equally influential factor in this winner takes all prize fight could be the toss. Through out the tournament, big teams have not been able to chase substantial targets with confidence. It is almost a certainty that whichever team wins the toss will look to bat first and bat the other team out of the tournament – a blue print that Australia implemented to the T in their semifinal against India and one that South Africa were on course to implement against Kiwis before rain intervened and threw a lifeline to the Kiwis.
It would be a let down for Cricket fans worldwide should the toss play a decisive factor and the match peter out along a predictable path. There have been only 2 successful chases of a 200+ target in the ten World Cups thus far. The 2 chases have been inspired by two ODI batting stalwarts in Arvinda de Silva and MS Dhoni. It will be a wonderful match if we have Kane Williamson or Steve Smith or Corey Anderson or Glen Maxwell lead their team through a high quality run chase. The other side of the coin – 23 years ago the final had a left arm paceman leading his team to victory by bowling a crucial spell. Which way will this final go?
Prediction: Australia have a lot of things going for them and they will rightly start the match as favorites, and thus far this tournament has been kind to teams that come into a match as favorites. I will stick to my pre-tournament picks – Australia to add another tourney to their already record haul of 4 World Cups.