Australia have never faced a World Cup opponent as strong as this Indian team and they’re only way to cause a boilover in Ahmedabad is to step outside their comfort zone.
They are up against a juggernaut which seemingly has no weaknesses after sweeping aside Australia and every other opponent in their 10-match winning streak in this tournament on home soil.
It is rare for Australia to be the rank outsiders in a major tournament, particularly after eight wins in a row of their own, but if they stick with the conservative approach they’ve displayed at the World Cup, they are likely to be cannon fodder.
After India’s dodgy tactics to dictate the pitch for their semi-final win over New Zealand, the Australians are expecting a similarly used surface to be rolled out at Ahmedabad.
It is likely to be the one that was used in India’s recent victory over Pakistan which will not only suit their spinners but also the powerful local batting unit.
Australia captain Pat Cummins did not seem particularly fussed by India’s wicked wicket ways at his pre-match media conference on Saturday.
“No doubt playing on your own wicket in your own country has some advantages,” he said.
“But we’ve played a lot of cricket over here. We’ll wait and see.”
When it comes to India’s batters, they will look to dominate Australia’s seamers from the get-go.
Home captain Rohit Sharma has virtually adopted a pinch hitter role at the top of the order with cameos of 40 off 24, 61 off 54 and 27 off 29 in his past three knocks.
But he can also be a candidate for LBW or bowled early in his innings, which brings the double-edged sword of Mitchell Starc into play.
If the peak Starc takes the new ball, he could make an early breakthrough with a full, swinging delivery but if he struggles for control, as he’s done several times in this tournament, Sharma will tear him apart in the power play.
India’s batting revolves around Virat Kohli at No.3 and if he gets established, he will control the tempo deep into the innings before launching himself or taking a back seat for Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul or Suryakumar Yadav to accelerate in the closing stages.
Kohli averages an imperious 57.16 against the Aussies in India, tonning up five times in his 27 innings.
Adam Zampa was briefly considered his kryptonite after dismissing him five times in ODIs during the first three years he took on the Indian superstar but he hasn’t claimed his wicket since the start of 2020.
Ashton Agar dismissed him twice in six contests, including earlier this year at Chennai, and would have been handy to have in the squad if not for an untimely calf injury hobbling him just before the tournament.
Australia can gain an advantage in the field. Compared to the butterfingered displays in their 0-2 start to the World Cup, their intensity and effectiveness in the field has been drastically improved.
Marnus Labuschagne has been an energiser bunny and David Warner’s diving efforts in the infield during the tense opening to the semi-final against South Africa lifted the pressure on the Proteas batters, who true to form, wilted with a few of them throwing their wicket away with careless shots.
When it comes to India’s bowlers, the Aussies are in a pick your poison situation.
A potential weakness in the Indian armour is that they rely on their five designated bowlers to bowl their full quota of overs, rarely using a sixth option.
Apart from their win over the Dutch when Kohli, Sharma and a couple of the other batters rolled the arm over with the result already sealed, the pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Moammed Siraj will share the bowling workload with the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
If they can blast one of them out of the attack, Sharma has no worthwhile alternative in his line-up.
Jadeja has tormented Australia for many years in all three formats but his ODI returns in India have been modest – 30 wickets at 38.4 in 25 innings at 5.03 an over. There’s potential to target him but it’d be a gamble.
Yadav could also be put off his game if the batters attack him. In 17 ODIs against the Aussies in India he’s been expensive, more than a run a ball across the journey, but effective as a wicket-taker, bagging 28 scalps.
If the Australian batters use their feet to him, they can score freely but with so many right-handers in the middle order, his wrong’un brings stumpings into play if he is able to disguise it well enough.
Depending on your perspective, Australia are building towards peaking in the final or their up-and-down form despite winning is a sign that they have been fortunate to make it this far and India are about to deliver a reality check in front of 100,000-plus screaming fanatics.
Cummins conceded they had not put together a “complete game” apart from perhaps their Dutch demolition mid-tournament.
The middle-order batting was again an issue in the three-wicket win over the Proteas in the semis so Australia’s best hope of knocking India off their game is for Warner, Travis Head or Mitchell Marsh to click at the top of the order.
“There have been no huge wins. We’ve had to fight for every win, but we’ve found a way to win,” Cummins said.
“I’m taking that confidence, knowing that we don’t have to be at our absolute best to challenge any team, we can find a way through it.”
Cummins has a chance to silence his growing band of critics if he is proactive with his tactics, especially his bowling changes and field placements, but don’t expect him to veer too far from the path that has taken Australia to the decider.
Whether it will be enough to take down India remains to be seen but it’s better to try to land a few haymakers even though you might end up going down swinging than playing the percentages when you’re up against a stronger all-round opponent.