Watching the World Cup final reminded me of the 2003 final, when Ricky Ponting played an innings similar to Adam Gilchrist, taking the game away from India. The Australians' strength lies in coming good on big occasions. But, before we discuss anything else, let's have a closer look at one of Gilchrist's supreme innings.
It all starts when Gilchrist walks briskly to the centre, maintaining a good distance from his partner. While seeking a leg-stump guard, we see him squatting and twisting, which is more for settling nerves than anything else. He walks up and down the track, tapping the pitch, with one final glance all around to see the field positions. After a cautious few overs, the rampage would begin.
He generates power from his top-hand grip, contradicting the more widely practiced bottom-hand grip. He always calls a loud 'yes' or 'no' to alert his partner, every ball. He can play a pull shot and a cover drive from the same length. He can sweep the ball finer and also pick the same length to hoist the bowler over long-on. He plays the cut shot with ferocity, proving many coaches who believe that top-hand grippers generally can't cut well wrong.
And, when he finally nicks one behind or gets caught elsewhere, he walks back with the same purpose as he entered. His strong fundamentals and skills make a deadly combination.
On Saturday, his soul-destroying innings was far too much for the Lankan bowlers. When the hitting is so clean, that too from the good length areas, bowlers go bereft of ideas. Even the experienced Murali resorted to one too many doosras, becoming predictable. Murali's over dependence on doosras allowed Adam to sweep at will, negating the great offie's threat.
The wicket wasn't easy to bat on. The Australians won the toss and decided to bat first, under overcast conditions. Even a truncated game, with enough moisture around, didn't perturb them. Such decisions reveal their ability to adhere strictly to a plan, and the self-belief to achieve results. The Australian strategy was simple: look out for the first few overs, and one of them would go hammer and tongs. Despite initial reservations on shot-making, Adam took the charge to the opposition.
Although Jayasuriya and Sangakkara played some delectable shots, it only emphasised their own class. But, truly, they were never in the race. Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Vaas, and Murali couldn't have done better than what they did. But it is hard to imagine how one can win against Australia, a great professional side, evolved over two decades of a highly efficient system.