NEW DELHI: Gautam Gambhir, former India opener and a key member of the 2011 Men’s ODI World Cup-winning team, has emphasised the significance of India’s opening encounter against Australia in the upcoming mega event. Gambhir believes that if Rohit Sharma‘s side aims to clinch the coveted trophy, the clash against Australia will be the most pivotal game of their campaign.
India, the champions of 1983 and 2011, will commence their quest in the 13th edition of the Men’s ODI World Cupwith a showdown against the five-time champions, Australia, on October 8 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.This tournament marks the first time India is solely hosting the Men’s ODI World Cup.

“Look, I have always said this, and there is no doubt in this, that if you want to win the World Cup, then you have to beat Australia. In 2007 when we won the World Cup, we defeated Australia in the semifinal. In 2011 when we won the World Cup, we beat Australia in the quarterfinal,” Gambhir said to Star Sports.

“Australia is the strongest team in any ICC tournament. Remove the ranking, ranking does not matter. You can be in any position in the rankings, but Australia, when it comes to those big tournaments, the World Cups, I think Australia has got the players, they have got the self-belief, Australia has the ability to play those big moments really well.”
Gambhir highlighted the historical significance of facing Australia in crucial stages of World Cup campaigns, saying, “And you can see this, the three World Cups that India won, we had to beat Australia in the knockout stage two times. And the World Cups that we have lost, in 2015 we lost to Australia. So I believe that if we have to win the World Cup this year, Australia is going to be the most important game, and we start against Australia, so there is nothing better than that. So beating Australia is very, very important.”

On the other hand, Shane Watson, a former member of Australia’s World Cup-winning teams in 2007 and 2015, envisions a tantalising prospect of an India-Australia final in the 2023 edition of the competition. Watson expressed his support for the Pat Cummins-led Australian side, expecting them to rise to the occasion in crucial league-stage matches.
“Definitely going to back Australia with the calibre of players they have. They have got a few question marks going into this World Cup, for sure, with a few positions and some injuries they have had, but the players they have got, they certainly know how to step up in these big games,” Watson said.
“And India, being at home, they’d know the conditions better than anyone, their bowlers are obviously on fire at the moment, with their quicks and also Kuldeep Yadav who is only getting better and better. So India with their firepower, especially with their top order in particular, they certainly can go all the way. So for me, Australia and India would be an incredible final,” Watson added.
(With IANS inputs)

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