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Australia in a class of their own
John Mehaffey |
March 24, 2003 19:14 IST
Great sporting dynasties such as the New York Yankees and Real Madrid have an infinite capacity to regenerate themselves.
The current Australia side, in a class of their own at the World Cup which concluded on Sunday, can legitimately claim the same status as the giants of American baseball and European soccer.
India, crushed by 125 runs at The Wanderers, earned their place in the final with an unbeaten run after losing in the first round to Australia.
Yet, in neither match were Australia remotely threatened by Sourav Ganguly's men. Australia rattled up a total 487 runs for the loss of just three wickets at a healthy run rate of 6.7 an over.
Australia won handsomely on Sunday because their top-order batting clicked at last in a record 359 for two. They could afford to fall below their usual impeccable standards in the field and their bowling was not at its sharpest.
After only 10 balls it was clear which way the match was going. Zaheer Khan conceded 15 in his opening over and the Australians were on their way to an embarrassingly one-sided win.
Like the Yankees, the current Australia side have a manifest confidence, swagger and athleticism. Those who deplore their domination of one-day and Test cricket are the same people who find the sustained excellence of Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters boring.
An essential part of the Australian success is their refusal to set any limits to their ambitions and possibilities.
Coach John Buchanan constantly looks beyond the boundaries in his efforts to improve his team's performance and he is already seeking to develop and refine the side further.
"I don't subscribe to the fact we have taken the game to a totally new level as there are lots of things we can do," he said on Sunday.
"At the moment we do most things everyone else does but we do them a little bit better and more consistently and there is no question we can get better.
"There is scope for every part of our game, whether it is technical or tactical through looking at the opposition and doing that differently, where we can improve."
One of Buchanan's innovations has been to recruit American baseball coach Mike Young as a throwing and fielding consultant.
Several leading Australian cricketers, both past and present, have played serious baseball and Australian teams have always been noted for their fielding and, in particular, their throwing.
But few cricket teams have consistently attained the precision and accuracy of the major league players where a game can be lost if a one throw is slightly off target.
"I am here to throw up alternatives, other options for them to think about coming from a perspective away from the way things have always been done," Young told Reuters during the six-week tournament.
"We have set plays in the field that we will use and they will get players out. We are looking to field aggressively, we are trying for run-outs and that excites me."
Modern one-day cricket has an increasing affinity with baseball with a result assured, every ball counting and an emphasis on fielding. As with Test cricket, Australia simply play it better than anybody else.
The International Cricket Council is justifiably delighted with the first African tournament, after early disruptions when England and New Zealand refused to play in Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively.
President Malcolm Gray said revenues amounted to more than $200 million, a World Cup record, and there had been no security concerns.
"The atmosphere was brilliant," he told a news conference on the eve of the final. "We believe it has been a success."
Chief executive Malcolm Speed said the ICC would consider criticisms that the tournament was far too long and also look at changing the format.
He also announced a minor change to the current test championship table, confusingly headed by South Africa because they have played more home-and-away series against other nations than Australia. In future one-off tests as well as series will count for points.
Recognising the dismal performances of Bangladesh who have not won a test or one-day international since they became the 10th full test member in 2000, the ICC is also in no hurry to make Kenya the 11th.
Kenya exceeded all expectations in advancing to the semi-finals, although their performances had earlier been put into perspective when they were well beaten by West Indies, the 2007 host country, in a group match.
Speed said the ICC had already put in place a three-year plan to develop cricket in the east Africa nation with $500,000 a year allocated to a development programme.
Kenya will apply for test status in 2005 but Speed said the ICC had to decide just how many test nations it could accommodate and added: "This is not to say they will be admitted."
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