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Australia conquered
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Feb 19, 2007
Even those who would dearly love to watch Australia stumble are stunned with how fast they fell.

Australia may have their share of issues going into the World Cup. Ricky Ponting certainly did not imagine that his tongue would get in the way of Brett Lee’s availability. Ponting did say that perhaps a slip or slide over a ball could well mean Stuart Clark would come back into contention. But surely, this was not what he had in mind.

Brett Lee now stands a 50:50 chance on making it to the World Cup. But he isn’t the only one. Andrew Symonds stands in serious danger of not only not making it to full fitness before the time lapse for replacement elapses but also, of becoming an obvious blow to Ponting’s plans. It is no secret that Ponting vehemently supported Symonds’ inclusion for the World Cup, saying almost that going to the World Cup without Symonds was pointless. That is huge coming from an Australian skipper. Does it then merit Dilip Vengsarkar, India’s chairman of selectors, to be buoyant of India’s chances since his claim that Australia is heavily dependent on certain players?

Australia is known to be more than a one man army. That is, until recently. True, Australia is struggling to show a full side with Michael Clarke and the skipper himself on the injury list and Adam Gilchrist awaiting the birth of his third child. It is quite astonishing that Australia believes they can do without the services of Gilchrist in the opening games. But Australia has always held forth the mantra that it is the team that is formidable for the opposition and not just any one given player.

A league game defeat could have been ignored, even if it was against a battered side like England. Australia still went to New Zealand for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy knowing very well that the hosts had underperformed in Australia only a fortnight ago to lose against England and not qualify to the finals despite being the dark horses.

The excuses were written even before Australia mouthed them. Overcast, chilly and windy conditions perhaps aided the New Zealand bowlers and in particular, Shane Bond, who famously picked up a five wicket haul not to mention a resplendent low caught and bowled opportunity off his own bowling. But come Australia’s turn, there was not even a hint of anything untoward. Stephen Fleming may not have scored a century. But he would have been happy his seventy was worth more than the century he scored in vain against England in the final league game. Additionally Lou Vincent took in fine touch and suddenly New Zealand lost their anonymous garb.

The second match though would have been a major blow. Not only did Australia score in excess of 300 but lost the match again in the same cricketing season. Mike Hussey is undoubtedly on the best finishers of the game at the moment. But he will have quickly realized that captaincy is a whole other ball game. His century came to naught as his bowlers continued to misfire and with none but Glen McGrath with the prowess to stem the flow of runs, all it took was for a mature innings and partnership from centurion Ross Taylor and Fulton to seal the deal. This was not a rollicking chase, or a painstaking one. It was a rocking one though and one that had even the neutral fan relishing the scintillating run to the finish.

Maybe the number one tag was just the boost South Africa needed to feel on top of the world literally sitting on the top of the ICC world rankings now. It was perhaps the icing on the cake having beaten Australia in that historic chase not a few months ago at the Wanderers. If Graeme Smith’s confident outlook is anything to go by, the fresh mindset and morale will only egg him on to demand more of himself and the team. It may just finally do wonders for a team that has come to each World Cup and hiccupped out of the tournament in the most bizarre and unprecedented fashion.

But it would still be no harm to exercise caution. After all, this is the former world champions we are taking about and that only changed about a day ago. Respect must be given where it is due. Australia may not be number one but still reserve decorum (of course, eating humble pie has its own merit) for being defending champions from the previous two World Cups. But it certainly makes the first big clash between two teams a fascinating clash in the first few days of league games at the World Cup!
 
More Views by Sreelata Yellamrazu
  One way ticket to history!
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