India will contest the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 final, 12 years after their previous appearance at the same juncture of the competition. The Men in Blue beat New Zealand on a historic evening in front of a raucous Wankhede crowd - David Beckham and Sachin Tendulkar among those present - to secure a spot alongside either Australia or South Africa for the trophy bout. (Match Blog | Scorecard | Report)
Home comforts suit India, whose last triumph in the ICC Cricket World Cup occurred on the very same pitch they sealed their victory against New Zealand tonight, November 15, 2023. Twelve years ago, with a completely different team but for a young Virat Kohli, the hosts had survived several punches thrown at them by their neighbours Sri Lanka, before crossing the threshold into cricketing immortality on the back of sensational performances from Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, among others.
Sachin Tendulkar, playing in his final World Cup for India back in 2011, had been his team's Mr Reliable across the tournament. As a mere token of appreciation for his contribution to the game of cricket, Kohli and Co had paraded the 'Little Master' around the Wankhede, lofting him high upon their shoulders for all to see. On Wednesday night, Tendulkar, who was sitting among the stars up on the gallery, stood in awe of his successor, as Kohli raced to his 50th One Day International century, leapfrogging the Indian legend in the process. Tendulkar poured all his feelings into a short message of appreciation for the now-35-year-old superstar, sharing them with the world through his social media account.
"The first time I met you in the Indian dressing room, you were pranked by other teammates into touching my feet. I couldn't stop laughing that day," Tendulkar wrote.
"But soon you touched my heart with your passion and skill. I am so happy that the young boy has grown into a 'Virat' player. I could not be happier that an Indian broke my record, And to do it on the biggest stage – in the World Cup semi-final – and at my home ground is the icing on the cake."
Back in 2011, nearing the end of his peak, a still-rapid Zaheer Khan had finished India's triumphant run with 21 wickets, sharing the pedestal with Pakistan's Shahid Afridi. Khan's super spells had helped India suffocate their opponents into submission. To say that Mohammed Shami invoked Khan's spirit on Wednesday evening would be doing injustice to two brilliant individuals. Rather, Shami, now the fastest bowler to claim 50 wickets in the Cricket World Cup, stood tall on his own merit; after disappointingly dropping Kane Williamson early in the game, he fought back with a match-winning spell that concluded with him taking seven (yes, seven!) wickets.
Backing Kohli with the bat, Shreyas Iyer continued his fine form late into the tournament with his second successive century. Iyer's bashful innings were a stern reply to those who had doubted his presence among a strong Indian batting line-up, going as far as singling him out as a weak link. Powering through the middle overs, Iyer picked up where the injured Shubman Gill had left off, and ensured the Men in Blue reached as close to the coveted 400-run mark as possible.
India's win over New Zealand was achieved in the field as much as it was between the crease. Always a safe pair of hands, Ravindra Jadeja answered his team's call when it looked like the match was slipping through their hands; he caught three New Zealanders in the deep, helping his peers thwart their opponents 70 runs adrift of the set target.
By beating New Zealand, India also extended their unbeaten run in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 to ten games. However, all presumptions will vanquish when the team enters the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday, November 19, in a match that can make or break their entire tournament. With the backing of the crowd, though, the Men in Blue will hope to repeat what they did 12 years ago on their own soil - and bring their third World Cup title home.