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Aussies looking to match 1975 Windies
Mark Lamport-Stokes |
February 19, 2003 12:23 IST
Defending champions Australia could not have begun the 2003 World Cup in more impressive fashion.
Some are already predicting a repeat of 1975, when an all-conquering West Indies side lifted the first World Cup trophy after winning every game in the tournament.
Ricky Ponting's Australian team overpowered their biggest Group A rivals, Pakistan and India, in their first two matches and most neutral fans are backing them to maintain that winning run all the way to the March 23 final in Johannesburg.
Should the Australians complete nine further victories, they would emulate Clive Lloyd's West Indies side of 28 years ago as the only World Cup winners to win every match.
Australia's performance of 11 consecutive wins would be the more impressive achievement, though, as the West Indies team of 1975 only had to win five games, clinching the trophy with a 17-run victory over Australia in the final at Lord's.
The West Indies, in 1979, and Sri Lanka, in 1996, also won the World Cup without losing a game, but neither team won every match.
In 1979, the West Indies' scheduled clash with Sri Lanka was abandoned because of bad weather, while the 1996 Sri Lankans benefited from two forfeited games, with Australia and the West Indies refusing to travel to troubled Colombo.
If Australia triumph in the 2003 final, they would become the first team to win the World Cup for a third time and would extend their winning streak in one-day internationals to 17 matches, stretching back to mid-January.
However, Australia wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist has played down talk of 11 straight wins.
"Of course it is possible and I know (Australia fast bowler) Glenn McGrath has made the comment but it is not something we have focused on and put down as a goal," he said.
"For now, we just want to make sure we get into the Super Sixes in the strongest possible position with the most points possible.
"From then on, it is almost sudden death, that is our thinking going into those games. You can afford to maybe drop a game here or there but it is not a mindset you want to get into.
"At the moment, we just want to make sure we are in the competition for as long as possible."
Whatever Gilchrist says, this Australia one-day team is almost universally regarded as the best in the world. Despite the early World Cup exit of leg-spinner Shane Warne after failing a drugs test, they have barely missed a beat and enjoy enviable strength in all departments.
A brilliant 143 not out by middle order batsmen Andrew Symonds set up a crushing 82-run victory over Pakistan in their tournament opener at The Wanderers, while superb fast bowling by Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie lifted them to a nine-wicket win over India at Centurion.
Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden provide an explosive opening partnership, with the likes of Ponting, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan and Symonds providing batting strength all the way down the order.
Lee and Glenn McGrath are a potent new-ball combination, Gillespie and Andy Bichel provide high quality seam back-up and Symonds, Lehmann and left-arm unorthodox spinner Brad Hogg offer further variation.
Even some of Australia's opponents have hinted they may be playing for second place.
"Everyone knows who the number one side in the world is," said South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher before the start of the tournament.
"We know we are the second best team after them (Australia) and we'd really like to get our hands on this trophy."
England captain Nasser Hussain, whose side have lost their last 13 one-day games to Australia, could hardly be more fulsome in his praise.
"My personal opinion is that this (Australia) side is the best side I've ever played against," he said.
"If we really do want to be the best side in the world, then we have to look at what this side is doing."
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