A three-day World Cup campaign is sure to have dismantled the confidence of the ever-arrogant Aussies.
It must have been something so new for the Australians. Just two matches in a World Cup tournament, even if it is the shortest format. Nasty! Somehow, I tend to relate it with Rafael Nadal’s exit from the French Open.
My memory stretches back to the 1996 World Cup from where the Australian dominance in international cricket had almost spiralled up to the top. They reached the finals, but lost to ultimate champions Sri Lanka. Later, in 1999, Steve Waugh’s men capitalised on Allan Donald’s error of judgement and booked a place in the finals riding on a piece of luck too. There, they were flawless against Pakistan. And then there was no stopping their caravan that had started to roll.
2003 and 2007 World Cups went by, but the winners never changed. They started as the second ranked team on the ICC charts in the last WC with South Africa going in to the t
ournament as the Numero Uno.
Australia had started their T20 proceedings in February 2005 versus New Zealand on a positive note. But their bad spell began prior to the Ashes, when England made them bite dust in the shorter format, but it did not end there. Worse, Bangladesh feasted on the Kangaroos in the 50 over format. Then the biggest upset came, when Ricky Ponting’s men could not defend their Ashes title and England managed to lay their hands on the trophy for the first time in almost 20 years.
Come 2006 and South Africa were ready for a massacre of the Aussies. March 12, 2006 can be hailed as a day when the world witnessed one of the greatest matches in the history of the game. Australia would not have, in their wildest of nightmares, imagined South Africa chasing down their gargantuan target of 434.
Later came the revolutionary T20 World Cup in 2007. They started favourites as usual, but were knocked out in the semi finals at the hands of the eventual champions India.
Talking of their record in the shortest format of the game, it is difficult not to mention their disastrous record of losing five matches on the trot before coming into their T20 World Cup 2009 campaign. They came, they saw, they lost, they left making it the first World Cup in which Australia have not won a SINGLE game. For the record, Australia suffered defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka and West Indies to guarantee their exit from the second edition of the T20 WC.
Their compatriots in shame were Holland, Bangladesh and Scotland, who accompanied the Mighty Australians out of the tournament. Now, has the overconfidence of the team from Down Under pushed them so low that it gives the world a chance to compare them with the likes of Holland and Scotland!
A team that once made news when it lost, now regularly suffers ignominy in defeats. They no longer start favourites, one isn’t shocked when they lose, and lose by hefty margins. They are no longer the ‘Invincible Aussies’.
The period of 1999-2007 could well be termed as the ‘Golden Era’ for Australian Cricket in literal terms. With the likes of slaughtering Gilchrist, magical Warne, nippy McGrath, the Waugh Brothers, Hayden, Bevan and Martyn, (the list goes on); it is pretty obvious that such team would be a magic on the 22 yard pitch. Taking credit away from coach John Buchanan, Shane Warne once famously said that with a team comprising such legends, even his mom would have done a better job.
The transition of the Australian team was so sudden that the world champions went into a vegetative state.
Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden quit cricket in a space of no time. When a bunch of such murderous legends walk away from a team leaving the responsibility on young shoulders, a downfall of the team is pretty obvious. Leave alone the task being easy, it is near impossible to replace such gentlemen.
Had they retired one by one at regular intervals, guiding their younger team mates through their experience, the story would have been entirely different. A crater was created all of a sudden which has still not been filled. Frankly, it will take long to do so.
Take Indian cricket for instance, which is also undergoing a complete makeover, the same has not been the case. Of the legendary bunch, only Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble bid good bye transferring their responsibilities of taking care of the team on the shoulders of the “ageing-but-still-there” Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Had all of them (Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble, Laxman), hung their boots together, like the Australians; the current Men in Blue would not be touted as the next super-powers of the game.
Had the fab five of the Indian camp quit international cricket and left the responsibilities on young shoulders of the likes of Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan, they would probably be facing similar fate as that of Australia.
The true sign of greatness is how you react after a fall. The ‘Mighty Aussies’ have fallen.
If only they rise from this stupor, will ‘Greatness Beckon’…!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)