Australian after winning the 1999 World Cup © Getty Images

 

By Vinay Anand

 

The last time Australia lost a World Cup match was in 1999 – against Pakistan at Leeds. In that World Cup, Australia were sliding to a first round exit until Shane Warne decided to take charge and he produced the best bowling of his lifetime, especially in the semi-final against South Africa when they were comfortably cruising through. Warne ensured the match was a tie, which allowed Australia to enter the final on the basis of a superior net run-rate. Steve Waugh inspired his team remarkably well, to comeback after back-to-back defeats to New Zealand and Pakistan. That win makes Waugh till date one of the best captains Australia has ever had, even though his ODI captaincy had been circumspect in most eyes.

 

Ricky Ponting took over from Steve Waugh as Australia’s ODI captain in 2002 and a year later, he led the team to their second World Cup win in a row. This time, he had a team which was strong and competitive, built very much from the last World Cup. They were the overwhelming favourites and they did justice to that tag right from the beginning by comprehensively beating heavyweights Pakistan and India in the first two matches of the group stages. And this despite Warne having to return home after he was found to have consumed banned drugs, the day before the match against Pakistan, Darren Lehmann being suspended and Michael Bevan suffering from injury. There was no looking back for this team, especially after a close win against England in a group match.

 

The players responded to Ponting’s captaincy in style, and when it mattered the most – the World Cup final against India – he  played one of the finest ODI innings of all time, scoring 140 runs off 121 balls, tearing apart India’s bowling attack and their hopes of winning the championship.

 

Australia had won 18 World Cups matches in a row when they went to the Caribbean in 2007. But this time they came into the World Cup after losing to England in the triangular series at home and whitewashed in New Zealand. But the team rose to the big challenge and the World Cup win showed Ponting’s leadership at its very best. He regrouped the team and increased the morale with the backing of senior players like Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath. With the absence of Brett Lee, life seemed difficult for Australia, but this World Cup was where players like Nathan Bracken and Shaun Tait made their mark and Ponting gave them a new lease of life by giving them responsibility of leading the bowling attack. This World Cup was a much sweeter win for Australia since they beat almost all top teams in ODI cricket like Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies in back-to-back matches. They beat Sri Lanka and South Africa twice in the tournament, and these two were the closest to give Australia any challenge, but they were outplayed comprehensively.

 

Australia have started off with a win against Zimbabwe in the 2011 World Cup – their 30th in a row in World Cup. Ponting as captain in 24 World Cup remains undefeated. Maybe this time some team could stop the Australian juggernaut from crushing everything in its path.

 

(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)