Pat Cummins believes 2023 shapes as a career-defining year for his Australian cricket team – and the World Cup final is set to determine whether that year can be looked back on as a raging success, or a pass mark.
From the first week of the year through to Sunday’s title decider against undefeated India in Ahmedabad, Australia has played 11 Test matches, three T20Is and 24 ODIs (including World Cup warm-up matches and the assignment to come.)
A white-ball World Cup, a Test series in India and an away Ashes series are the three toughest assignments an Australian cricket team can face, and all three have come in the space of nine months.
Throw in the final of the World Test Championship, and it has been a “huge year” by Cummins’ estimation.
“They’re four marquee events that if you have one of those in your off-season, it’s a big off-season,” the Australian captain said.
“Some of the guys have probably spent less than a couple of weeks in their own beds since the end of the Aussie summer.”
Undoubtedly, Australia has made a decent fist of their major overseas assignments, most notably defeating India at The Oval to clinch victory in the second-ever WTC final.
Nathan Lyon’s 8-64 in the victorious third Test, spin protege Todd Murphy’s debut Test series and the winning ODI series all made for a memorable tour of India even though the Test series was lost.
A drawn Ashes series with the architects of ‘Bazball’ before parochial England crowds was certainly something to write home about, as well.
But as the globe-trotting year approaches its end, a defeat of India in the World Cup final would elevate Cummins’ side from respectability to reverence.
“To put ourselves in a position for this, it would top off an incredible year and probably a career-defining year that a lot of us will look back on in years to come and be pretty proud of,” Cummins said.
“(To win the final) would be huge. We were all kids not too long ago, watching some of those great teams win the ’99, 2003, and 2007 World Cups.
“That’s the opportunity ahead of us tomorrow, which is really exciting. To be captain would be an absolute privilege, to lift the trophy with this great bunch of blokes.
“In terms of the pinnacle (of world cricket), I think it is right up there. It’s got the longest history of a world event where all the teams compete.
“You only get a shot at it every four years, so even if you have a long career you might only play in two of these events.”
The pitch selected at Ahmedabad has been used in one previous match at the tournament, the clash between India and Pakistan during the group stage, which the hosts won comfortably.
The confirmation comes after fears India’s cricket board (BCCI) had weighed into the ICC’s decision to select a used pitch for India’s semi-final against New Zealand.
But Cummins appeared unfazed by conditions favouring India.
“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.”
Cummins felt Australia were yet to play a “complete game” in the tournament.
“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.”