Allan Border admits he was shaking his head when Pat Cummins sent India in to bat at the World Cup final, but lauded the call as a genius tactical move.
Australia defeated India by six wickets to win a sixth ODI title as Travis Head starred with a blistering century and a superb catch that turned the game in Australia’s favour.
But Border was just one of many Australians scratching their heads when Cummins won the toss and surprised everyone by choosing to bowl first in Ahmedabad.
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It defied conventional cricketing wisdom of putting a score on the board and making the opposition sweat in the run chase as the pitch deteriorates.
Indian captain Sourav Ganguly famously sent Australia in to bat in the 2003 World Cup final and lived to regret that decision after Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden got off to a flyer and Ricky Ponting scored one of the finest centuries of his career.
But Cummins’ call at the toss proved to be a stroke of tactical genius as Australia restricted India to a score of 240 and just four boundaries outside the first 10 overs.
When Indian skipper Rohit Sharma teed off for 47 off 31 balls, it looked like the decision to bowl first might have backfired.
Writing for CODE Sports, Border wrote: “Pat Cummins’ “bowl first’’ call in the World Cup final was one of the bravest decisions I have seen from a cricket captain.”
“I must be honest, when I heard Pat say “we will bowl’’ I thought “oh no, Patrick, you have lost the plot, you blokes!’’
“When Rohit Sharma was going hard early, I thought “what are we doing?’’
“Talk about a gutsy move. When you win the toss and bowl you have to do a lot of things right.”
“Those first half a dozen to 10 overs I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, The decision to bowl first has just backfired’,” Border told Fox Sports News.
“After about six overs, I wasn’t a happy camper I’ve got to say. They must know something more than I know because I’ve been to India quite a few times as a player — and you win the toss, you bat first on nearly every occasion.
“I was shaking my head. I just couldn’t believe we would be that silly. Getting runs on the board is the oldest way of playing — Australia plays so well (when we) bat first, get runs on the board, then strangle the opposition.
“But they did it in reverse and well done. Even the management have to take something out of that win. They had a role to play and they did a great job.
“But obviously they’d done their homework, the management of the team has to take credit.
“They knew there would be some dew and the pitch might settle down and start skidding on to the bat.
“So batting second was probably the preferred option to batting first, which seems a bit strange but day-night cricket and that dew factor has brought something different to the game.”
Border, who captained Australia to their first World Cup win in 1987, said Cummins had enhanced his legacy as captain with a superb 2023 by also retaining the Ashes and winning the World Test Championship.
“He’s just grown as a captain and a leader,” Border said.
“Tactically out on the field, he’s got some good senior men, which he goes to a fair bit and why not?
“There was a lot of people and I was one of them thinking loading up our No. 1 fast bowler with the captaincy might not be the right decision. But Patrick’s just grown into the job and he’s starting to really make the team his own.
“He defies some logic at times like bowling first but there was some method to the madness and he’s proved all the critics wrong time and time again.
“He’s in the ‘very good’ status and soon to be ‘great’ if he keeps going the way he is.”
Border said Head’s performance in the final was “as good as it gets” and praised the Australians for showing resilience to bounce back from losing the first two games of the campaign.
“The captaincy was excellent,” he said.
“The fielding was excellent. Everything Australia touched turned to gold. They left nothing in the shed and saved their best for last.
“They’re a very good side. They handled a bit of adversity very well didn’t they. Losing the first two games of the round games put us right behind the eightball.
“They just held their nerve, got a couple of wins on the board, then I think that Afghanistan game where Glenn Maxwell played the innings of his life, that was the turning point.
“They just got better and better, they got the momentum going. To beat in India in that final, that’s an incredible feat. It was silent most of the time I was watching. You don’t silence 130,000 people very easily.
“All of a sudden they just found their mojo. The fielding was top shelf. The whole thing was great to watch.”