The final the Champions Trophy desperately needed

Kishan Badrinath Roar Guru

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    Let me take you back to February 15th, 2015.

    It’s another blisteringly hot Summer’s day in Adelaide, with the temperature reaching 39 degrees. The barometer barely drops below thirty, so there is no respite from the heat.

    At midday, I along with thousands of people, am jammed in a densely packed crowd. There is no shade, leaving us vulnerable to a burning sun. My shirt and hands are dripping with sweat in a matter of minutes.

    The noise around me is deafening, I can’t even hear myself speak let alone my brother who is centimetres away.

    And I couldn’t be happier.

    For years, I was forced to watch from afar and listen to gushing testimonials from fans and players alike about the electric atmosphere present at their matches.

    But finally, I was front and centre to bear witness to traditional rivals India and Pakistan start their 2015 World Cup campaign, with the majestic Adelaide Oval as their battlefield.

    The mundane suddenly became magical.

    Waiting in a queue to be let into the ground is usually tedious, but on this occasion felt like the start of the match.

    Outnumbering the Pakistan fans seemingly five to one and clad in blue, a rapturous cry of ‘Jeetega bhai Jeetega, India jeetega’ (loosely meaning India will win brother, India will win) was belted out by the Indian fans.

    Undaunted, covered in various shades of green, the Pakistan faithful responded with their own battle cry of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (Long live Pakistan).

    After a back and forth between the two war cries, minutes later applause broke out between all fans. The mood was set.

    Inside the ground, everything was amplified. Though the crowd of 41,587 was at least 10,000 short of the ground’s capacity, the noise generated was overwhelming.

    The toss won by M.S Dhoni, sent Indian fans into a frenzy. The anthems of both nations were belted out with pride and gusto followed by thunderous applause.

    The wait to get into the ground, the toss, the anthems and watching the players stride onto the field, it all felt incredibly important.

    Every second in the lead up to the first ball felt momentous. That day you felt like you were a part of the team instead of a mere spectator. It was a feeling like no other.

    This is what awaits the Oval for the Champions Trophy final.

    Though the game in Adelaide failed to provide a great contest – being an unashamed fanatic of the Indian cricket team, I can’t say it didn’t live up to the hype from my perspective – with India cruising to a 76-run victory, the match was still an incredible spectacle.

    For a tournament that was cancelled after 2013 and has struggled to find its identity in a bloated cricket calendar, a spectacle is exactly what the Champions Trophy final needs.

    The viewership numbers are set to be astronomical, with the ICC estimating 366 million will tune in to watch the final – making it the third highest watched cricket match ever. Those figures could even push half a billion if the game is close.

    It is a dream scenario for the organisers.

    Prior to the start of the tournament, there were fears that India may not even participate due to the BCCI’s displeasure with the new power and revenue-sharing model agreed by the ICC in April.

    Like an entitled child, the BCCI withheld the submission for the Indian squad missing the initial deadline but faced no sanctions.

    However once finally in England, India’s play reflected the domineering style of the BCCI. Relying on a tried and true formula, the men in blue have reached the Final by bludgeoning helpless bowling attacks.

    Ably supported by solid performances with the ball and in the field, apart from one innings against Sri Lanka, India have looked and played like the defending champs.

    In stark contrast to the Indian juggernaut, Pakistan enter tonight’s final as the plucky underdog. Employing their own unique brand of mercurial play, Pakistan have once again been predictably unpredictable.

    Led by Hasan Ali – another relatively anonymous young pace bowler that Pakistan seems to unearth on a whim – the men in green rebounded from an awful showing in their first match (against India) to strangle opponents with terrific bowling.

    So, it’s as it should be.

    Indian batting versus Pakistan bowling. The defending champion versus the feisty challenger. India versus Pakistan.

    What a perfect final.