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World XI takes on the Aussies!
by Gulu Ezekiel
May 16, 2005
Whatever be the arguments for and against the players chosen to represent the World XI in this year’s series of matches in Australia, there can be no arguing the legitimacy of the opposition. Australia has now completed 10 years at the top of the cricket world. They will provide a formidable challenge to the World XI in the three One-day internationals and the sole ‘Super Series Test’ all of which will for the first time have the seal of official sanction.

In 1970 a World XI led by the legendary Garry Sobers defeated England 4-1 and then a year later, Sobers once again led the Rest of the World this time in Australia, winning 2-1. But those matches were never approved as official Tests. Neither of course were the two seasons of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (1977-79).

Australia’s decade of domination began when they defeated the West Indies in the West Indies in 1995. It was the Windies’ first defeat at home since 1973 when Australia had beaten them 2-0. Since then Australia have only been beaten three times, twice by India, both times by the margin of 2-1 (in 1998 and 2001) and on both occasions in India. India also won the one-off Test in New Delhi in 1996 under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar. Sri Lanka also won at home in 1999.

India indeed has the best record against the all-conquering Aussies including the 1-1 draw Down Under in 2003-04. It is a record India can be proud of and is one of Sourav Ganguly’s proudest achievements, though the 1998 victory came under the captaincy of Mohammed Azharuddin.

In the 18 Test matches the two teams have played in this decade of Aussie dominance, the record stands at eight wins for Australia and seven for India with just three draws—really not much to choose between the two sides. Australia have not lost a series at home over the last 10 years, twice being held to a draw (by New Zealand and India). In addition to Test matches, under the captaincy of Mark Taylor (1996), Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003), Australia have three times in succession reached the final of the World Cup, winning it on the last two occasions.

Just when it appeared the cracks were beginning to show, the world champions proved their worth when they beat India in India last year for the first time since 1969-70, this time under the leadership of stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist (Ponting returned for the fourth and final Test at Mumbai which Australia lost).

Now Ponting’s men face the challenge of retaining the Ashes. The last time they were beaten by old foes England was in Australia in 1986-87. Since then the Poms have never stood a chance. With the majority of the champion side now on the wrong side of 30 and with England enjoying a fantastic season, it looks like the Aussies will be hard-pressed to hold onto the legendary urn, symbol of supremacy in Anglo-Australia cricket since 1882.

No country though can afford to take the Aussies lightly. That is the lesson of the last decade.
 
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