Are Australia set for another bout of cricket dominance?
With Australia’s outright win against India in the semi finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it took some time to sink in – the fact that the final of this year’s Cricket World Cup will be outlined by one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the game, played between Australia and New Zealand, should make for an ideal finale.
As Australia bowed out at the quarter final stage of the same competition four years ago, it marked the end of an era of relentless dominance. Four years on, there’s a completely new
look to the team. But, just like the phoenix that is reborn from its ashes, Australia is in search of that dominance once again, and its beginning shall be marked by them capturing their fifth World title.
Finest batting on display
Michael Clarke had been a doubt right from the beginning of the tournament, with his recurring back injury ready to play spoilsport. But Clarke is made of sterner stuff. A true leader, his smart captaincy has reaped huge benefits – a claim immediately justified by their position in this World Cup. He has brought the team together, churning out the best off each player. Maybe lesser in tenacity when compared to Ricky Ponting, but there are similarities that shine through.
The sounding of the names of Aaron Finch and David Warner has only meant disaster for the opposing team. The two play almost the same explosive, merciless brand of cricket that was such a trademark of the formidable opening duo of Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. Finch and Warner have the tendency to give each other the sense of calm to play their natural game no matter what the situation demands. And it has been this formula that has worked wonders for the Aussies at the birth of their innings, laying the foundation for the proceeding batsmen.
When India first landed on Australian soil four months, they were the current World Champions as well as the holders of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. However, during the course of their sojourn, a player by the name of Steve Smith stripped them of these accolades. Being the primary tormentor for India’s bowlers in the Test series, it was appropriate when he scored a smart and majestic knock of 105 against the Men in Blue in the World Cup semi finals, helping Australia beat them by 95 runs. Four months on, he has assured that both, the Border-Gavaskar trophy as well as the World Cup, will not make its way back to the sub-continent.
Glenn Maxwell’s role in the team is of utmost importance, as his late flourishes provide the team with the needed impetus going into the second half of the game. It also proves to be a match winner in many circumstances, as was the case when he scored his maiden ODI hundred against Sri Lanka in their penultimate group game.
Sending shivers down the rivals’ spine, Australia’s bowling is a class apart
Australia has always had a knack of producing some of the game’s finest pace bowlers. And once again, in Mitchell Starc they have found a talisman. The pacer has been in stellar form throughout the tournament, and this has been reciprocated in the records as well, racing up to second position on the highest wicket taker’s list. In the group game against New Zealand, he almost single handedly pulled off a remarkable victory for the team, tearing through the Kiwis’ lower order. In the end, he finished with figures of 6 for 28, although Australia lost by just one wicket.
It is astonishing to know that this is a bowler who is as effective with the old ball as he is devastating with the new. Progressing through the tournament, Starc has stolen the limelight from the more experienced Mitchell Johnson. Until recently, Johnson was regarded as Australia’s spearhead. But Starc’s meteoric rise to fame hasn’t fazed him at all. He’s doing just what the team expects from him – bowl fast, bowl with vigour, and take wickets. Johnson and Starc have struck an excellent partnership and are just one hurdle away from scripting a fabulous World Cup triumph. Johnson is no mug with the bat, either. Coming in late down the order, Johnson has the uncanny ability of swinging his bat at any delivery and sending it racing away to the boundary. Apart from this deadly duo, the likes of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood make for a competitive bowling unit.
We’ve got a humdinger of a game on our hands..
Given that they play the same opposition in the final by whom they were convincingly overwhelmed, it would be interesting to see whether there’s a change in strategy from Clarke and his men. Undoubtedly, this final will be about two teams looking break each others’ mojo and capitalize on the weaknesses – something no one has been able to exploit throughout the tournament.
No one could have written a better script. Two of the fiercest rivals and an age-old rivalry, at the grandest stage of them all – the Cricket World Cup final. The Aussies are still smarting from their group stage defeat against the Black Caps and will be seeking some well-timed and sweet revenge. Has the time come for Australia to rule the world of cricket once again?