Cricket World Cup 2015 final: Whose mauka now? Australia, New Zealand or Arnab Goswami?

Will "Baz" McCullum flex his Popeye muscles again? Can "Big Show" Maxwell turn "phataa poster niklaa hero" for Aussies? We'll find out on Sunday.

 |  4-minute read |   28-03-2015
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Now that #Won'tGiveItBack has been swiftly amended to #Can'tTakeItNoMore, all eyes are on Sunday's trans-Tasmanian World Cup final. Australia and New Zealand aren't quite in the India-Pakistan league when it comes to sporting rivalries, but one senses that they're getting there, what with their nerve-wracking encounter in the group stages, where Mitchell Starc almost bowled his team to a dramatic victory before Kane Williamson smacked a nerveless blow over long-on to end the Aussie jailbreak. Who will strike the decisive blow in this final? Here are a few of the contenders:

Brendon McCullum: Unconfirmed rumours persist that a group of Maori tribesmen travelled to Kandy, Christchurch and Najafgarh a month before the world cup. The objective? A lock of hair each from the ever-diminishing pates of Sanath Jayasuriya, Mark Greatbach and Virender Sehwag, respectively. From the essence of these bald butchers of yore (Afridi didn't qualify, the tribesmen said; too much hair) was born Brendon McCullum 2.0, the cricketing equivalent of the Kraken, a mythical monster who dismembers and spits out bowling attacks before vanishing into the depths as quickly as he materialises. Australia, too, felt his whiplash fury in their group match, when he pummelled Mitchell Johnson into submission on his way to a 21-ball half-century. It's not every day that you see Johnson bowling a spell of 4-0-52-0, the kind of figures one normally associates with military medium trundlers like Vinay Kumar. Will Baz flex his Popeye muscles again? We'll find out on Sunday.

Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult: Left is right as far as this world cup is concerned. Wahab Riaz, who in the 2011 edition had dismissed Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh off successive deliveries, turned the heat on in this world cup as well. For about 30 minutes, it seemed Australia would be blown away by one man, before Pakistan's fielding restored our faith in conventional wisdom. In the Australia-New Zealand group game, Boult and Starc took 11 wickets between them. They made the most elegant of bat-swings look as if a traffic cop was swatting flies on a lazy afternoon. They made batsmen look foolish and captains look much better than they actually were. The most impressive thing yet about the two of them has been their temperament. Boult seldom indulges in banter; when you have the ball on a string at 145 clicks an hour, you don't need to. Starc lost it briefly yesterday against Suresh Raina, but a most grievously stentorian talk by Kumar Dharmasena (whose umpiring is as minimalistic as his bowling action) set him right.

Steven Smith: Glenn "Big Show" Maxwell might be the "phataa poster niklaa hero" player in the Aussie ranks, but on the big day, Steven Smith has been the bedrock, the mother ship, the lynchpin. His 100 yesterday must surely be the most invisible, sneaky little 89-ball ton ever; no ball was hit in anger, except the fast, flat delivery from Jadeja that he put away over midwicket for six. He is also the most Indian-Australian batsman of all time, because of a) His quintessentially Indian way of using his feet against the slower men and b) His quintessentially Indian way of identifying the rubbishness of Indian attacks on a flat deck. Against India, he first reaches a 100 and then decides what guard to take. Against other opposition, too, he's no slouch and will be dying to cap off his golden summer with a century on the biggest day of his career so far.

Arnab Goswami: I have been meaning to take a trip down to Guwahati for a while now, and on the evidence of its most famous son, I am disappointed and terrified in equal measure. What Goswami and his channel did yesterday was not yellow journalism; it was roguishness with a tux and a collar mike. The difference between India's most famous cricketer and India's most famous journalist is simple: Dhoni refused to leave the World Cup campaign even to see his new-born daughter, while Goswami launched a cynical campaign against not just our team, but also the girlfriend of our best player. What new depths will Goswami and his team sink to during and after the final? Will he probe the personal lives of Michael Clarke or Ross Taylor as well? Will he claim that the #ShameOnTimesNow campaign was an "anti-national" conspiracy?

Will he, to the relief of millions of viewers, undergo spontaneous combustion? The nation wants to know.


Aditya Mani Jha Aditya Mani Jha @aditya_mani_jha

Writer works at Penguin Random House India. The views expressed here are his own.

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