Australia, as things stand today, is too comfortably perched at the top!
Rain wanted to grab the limelight at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. The weather was plausibly feeling hard done what with Australia overpowering cricketing matters since the commencement of the 2007 Cricket World Cup Caribbean Carnival. But then trying to outdo Australias rich run in World Cups has been the dream of more than one force of nature or one team. Shattered dreams, of course, and proven conclusively so!
With so many equations and variables changing about the game, perhaps it is time for pre-match analysis to no longer dwell on the possibility of the one day game being essentially dubbed an even affair or at the other extreme, a lottery, at least not when Australia happens to be one of the two teams. Every team that came up against Australia with some reputation went back flushed with fury at their own self-destruction and timid submission at the first hint of crisis.
To label South Africa chokers would be unfair because all so called competitive teams that have come up against Australia have choked. To their defense, South Africa did not choke this time round. But yes, it was truly an instance of inexplicable harrowed batting for the first half hour that was uncharacteristic of an otherwise seemingly determined and level headed South African team. Just goes to show Australia can asphyxiate any team in a moment of crisis where clear thinking gets clouded very quickly. That seems exactly what happened to Sri Lanka, caught in a similar whirlpool to South Africas where the Australian onslaught shred to tatters any pre-laid plans.
All eyes were focused on two Australian men (the third man being Sri Lankan and none other than Sanath Jayasuriya). With Glen McGrath and Matthew Hayden really leading Australias road to a glorious history, they would post the biggest threat to the opposition. However, it was another player who came to the fore. Emulating his skippers effort at the last World Cup final, Adam Gilchrist blazed his way to a rousing best 149. He certainly ensured that his subdued consistency was given a facelift.
The first few rounds did not quite bring in the World Cup feel, at least not for the only World Cup interest cricket fans. Things looked significantly somber with the two big Asian giants making a team exit before the Super 8s. Thereafter, it seemed to matter little that as big matches and head on battles were highlighted, they went downhill, especially those that involved Australia. Even the final had to end in a bit of a farce and instead of celebrating the obvious, the need to carry out the process in the most atrocious conditions made it a silly affair in the end, really. The long tournament promised not to yield even in conditions beyond cricketing sense.
If hope of reviving the business end of the World Cup flickered, they were quickly extinguished by two fairly predictable semi-final matches that looking even and fascinating on paper, did a complete turnaround where the outcome of the games was a fairly foregone conclusion. It certainly laid seeds of doubt if the final would fall flat on its face even with the prospect of a face off between two of the better teams of the tournament.
Once again Australia is in sight and the opposition team loses the plot! Sri Lanka did try to do things differently by holding back its prime bowlers in the Super 8 clash in bid to spring a surprise on the Australians. To have tried something, they deserve credit. But where they missed it was perhaps based on the common sense is actually trying to bring Australia down in the league game and therefore, bring a more humble foe to the knock out clash.
Did Australia feed on the momentum? Absolutely. A team that has won more than it has lost; Australia briefly went into pallor in the tournaments prior to the World Cup. But come the big stage, Australia felt right at home, having been successful on both previous occasions. Every victory bolstered them; past defeat spurred them on. Feeding on their success, Australia dared to dream and never lost focus. Fear meant nothing to them.
That is what comfort does; the comfort and the confidence that comes from consistently aiming to be the best and more importantly, converting the goals into realities on a regular basis to the point where it comes naturally to notch up a gear or two. That is perhaps what has made a significant difference; the core Australian unit being exposed to the finale and victory an overwhelming three times in a row! That will take some doing to overcome. That is why even when Jayasuriya and Sangakkara tried to revive flagging interests in uncannily somber and dramatically fluctuating weather; Australia was still holding the upper hand in the scenario.
It will take a team of tremendous mental toughness to really upstage Australia. This tournament has failed to live up to its open billing. Australia, as things stand today, is too comfortably perched at the top!