Aussies a cut above the rest

First side to win back to back Champions Trophy titles

Aussies a cut above the rest

Australian team celebrates after the triumph in the Champions Trophy on Monday night. AP

For the third time in the last four 50-over ICC tournaments dating back to the 2003 World Cup, the Australians have romped through the competition undefeated.

Their lone defeat during an awe-inspiring run of four triumphs on the trot, against the West Indies in the 2006 Champions Trophy in India, stands out as little more than a blip on the radar, one off-day submerged in a sea of wondrous performances.

India and South Africa might be jostling with the Aussies for the tag of the best ranked one-day team in the world, a reward for consistency in the preceding two-year period, but when it comes to the big stage, both have plenty to learn from Ricky Ponting’s men. It will be naïve to presume that factors such as the top ranking do not occupy the minds of the Aussies; saying that, their focus has always been to remain the last team standing on the big stage, which is why they have won three World Cups in a row and, now, two consecutive Champions Trophies.

Modern giants

A majority of their previous successes came with some of the modern giants of the game striding the world stage like a colossus, which is exactly why their successful defence of  the Champions Trophy at SuperSport Park on Monday night will be particularly special for Ponting and his warriors. Even minus Matt Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, not to mention an injured and missing-in-action vice-captain Michael Clarke, Australia seldom dropped from the consistently high standards they have maintained in big events, a wonderful tribute to their drive, desire, hunger and overriding passion.

“One of the great strengths of the Australian team has been that if some of the bigger names don’t get the job done, then we find someone who puts their hand up and does it,” Ponting said after Australia crushed a brave New Zealand by six wickets in the final, thanks to a crucial stand of 128 between man of the match Shane Watson and Cameron White.

“Today, it was Shane and Cameron that did a great job for us. It’s great to see now that we are getting a bit more experience in some of the young guys, they are starting to make a major impact on the international game. That’s a really good sign for us. We pride ourselves on big events, big tournaments. Someone mentioned the other day that we have lost just one game in the last couple of World Cups and couple of Champions Trophies. That’s something we can all be very proud of. For me to be the captain of the side that has done that is something I can be very proud of as well.”

Australia are more vulnerable and less invincible than they have been in the immediate past – as their nervy approach to Pakistan’s 206 in a must-win league tie in this competition revealed – but even so, they are a couple of notches above the opposition in events with so much at stake. That’s because of a strong sporting, particularly cricketing, ethos where there is no place for second-best, where winning is not everything but it is the only thing.

Relentless pursuit

The relentless pursuit of excellence, not an exclusive Aussie trait but a mission to accomplish for which they are more willing to work harder than anyone else in the world, is what makes them such a tough nut to crack day in and day out. Invariably, they find a man for the occasion.

Where others might look at a pressure-cooker situation such as a Cup final as an opportunity to fail, men like Watson view it as a chance to succeed, to make a name for himself, to prove to himself as much as anybody else that he rightfully deserves his place in the champion outfit.

As is inevitable, Australia will feel the pinch when Ponting, Mike Hussey and the increasingly injury-prone Brett Lee, all well into their 30s, bid adieu sometime in the near future. The period of transition will test them as much as it has other teams, but the wealth of talent and the ability of their ‘lesser’ players to stand up and be counted regularly suggests they will tide over the transition phase faster, and better, than anyone else.

DH News Service

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