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The Dominance of The Yellow Army

Australia dominated cricket for a long time until a few recent years. Their dominance started way back from 1987 and continued till 2015. They are still the favourites for the World Cup. 

ST
Last updated: 29.05.2019
Cricket World Cup 1987 | Sports Social Blog

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The World Cup in 1987 saw the reduction in the number of overs played in an ODI. It was played in India and Pakistan and therefore due to the light conditions in the sub-continent, ICC had to make changes. That was the first time that the World Cup saw 50-over matches.

Earlier in 1975 and 1979, Australians were favourites in the mega event but West Indies were always around them as the controller of world cricket. Even in 1983 West Indies were clearly favourite. 1987 World Cup was a real tester for teams from outside sub-continent. Allan Border was leading the Australia cricket team in the tournament. He was given the charge of the Australian team at possibly the worst time. Players like Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell, and Rodney Marsh were gone by then and a number of players were serving bans followed by the rebel tours to South Africa. So it wasn’t the best squad Border had and people had zero expectation.

Luck By Chance

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They started their journey by winning the opening match against India by just one run. They won rest of the group matches except the second face off with India. India were leading the chart post the group stage with the Aussies at the second position. Thanks to Craig McDermott’s five-wicket haul against the deadly Pakistan that Australia could reach the final. Interestingly India and Pakistan were favourite this time but both the countries lost in the semis in front of their home crowd.

The battle was between the arch-rivals, Australia and England. Australia beat England by seven runs only to lift the Reliance World Cup (sponsorship courtesy) for the first time. While Chasing 253/5, England were well set in the match. They were losing wickets at regular intervals but were adding runs too. When England were 135/3 and Mike Gatting (41) and Bill Athey (58) had all the control, Gatting went for an unusual shot, a reverse sweep. It was so unlikely from him that even the fielder almost dropped the ball. Once Gatting was gone, England could never come back and lost the final.

The entire tournament saw Australia winning close matches except for the two against Zimbabwe in the group stage. This gives an impression of how Australia survived and eventually won the Cup.

Australia were lucky in 1987. Although But their first World Cup victory didn’t have any long-lasting impact, the successive years saw some amazing performances and the rise of the young player like Steve Waugh.

The 1992 World Cup was a shocker for Australians as they were out from the group stage only and that too in the home condition. The 1996 World Cup saw Australia once again fighting with the sub-continental situations and reaching the final at Lahore, Pakistan. This time Sri Lanka didn’t do anything wrong to utilize the favourable conditions properly and won the World Cup. Australia once again were not one of the favourites this time, especially after the previous outcome, and they didn’t show major control throughout the tournament as well.


Luck Matters, But…

By the next World Cup in 1999, Australia was the world’s best test side. But they were on the verge of elimination when a brilliant captain’s knock of 120 from Steve Waugh saved them finally in the Super Six. Luck was on their side this time as Herschelle Gibbs dropped Waugh when he was batting at 56. The semi-final saw an epic tie between South Africa and Australia in Edgbaston.  South Africa needed only one run with four balls remaining in the final over. Lance Klusner was on strike. Confusion between him and Allan Donald resulted in a panicky run-out and eventually a tie. Australia, due to their better Super Six results made it to the final.

The final saw a young Shane Warne scalping four wickets to restrict Pakistan for just 132 runs. It was a comfortable chase by Australia and they won the final by eight wickets with 179 balls remaining.

One can definitely argue of Australia being lucky once again this time, especially the way they entered the final. But their comebacks showed how much competent they were even in the anti-conditions and tricky days. Luck cannot help a team to win seven matches in a row. And they nailed it in the final to prove themselves as the most deserving country to win the 1999 World Cup.

The Most Deserving

Australia went on to win the World Cup second time in a row in 2003. This time they were easily the most favourite team of the tournament and all set to defend the title with a world class team. The tournament schedule attracted heavy criticism as the number of matches went up to 54 - the highest in the Cup history and the participating teams were increased from 12 to 14.

The Australian team at that time were arguably the best team in the cricket history that can be directly compared to Clive Lloyd’s West Indies. Ponting and Buchanan were handed over a team built by Steve Waugh and Geoff Marsh. Waugh was a visionary and that was evident when he fought for Buchanan’s selection as the coach. The team had members like Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hogg, Andy Bichel, Brett Lee, and Glen McGrath. It was probably impossible to not be the world champion with this team. Incidentally, Australia missed Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie in the tournament.

2003 ICC Cricket World Cup was full of ups and downs. Teams like South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, and England were eliminated from the group stage and Super Six. Australia led by Ricky Ponting won all the matches; and that too with absolute dominance.

They faced India in the final encounter on 23rd March 2003. India had a brilliant comeback followed by some dream performances. A lot of experts expected Sourav Ganguly led Team India would finally stop the winning streak of Australia. But that Australian Cricket Team was probably too good for anyone in the world cricket history.

The final was completely a one-sided affair and India lost the match miserably. They reached World Cup final after 20 long years. The Indian team had a perfect balance of experience and youth with members like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif,  Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, etc.

Batting first, Ponting played a captain’s knock and Indian bowlers were totally clueless in front of his daunting 140*. He was well supported by all the top order batters and finally, Australia ended their innings at 359/2.  Even in 2003, 280 plus target was enough to kill the opponent psychologically. This is exactly what happened with the Indian team. They surrendered completely although Sehwag (82) and Dravid (47) tried to put up a fight. But nothing worked. McGrath and Lee were on fire and scalped three and two wickets respectively. Indians were all out for 234 and Australia lifted the Cup with ten overs remaining in the final match.


The Saga Continued

2007 World Cup was almost a repetitive affair of 2003. Once again it was a one-sided affair. Australia had few new faces like Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke compared to the previous tournament team. But maximum members of both teams were the same. The changes were obviously made for the betterment.

Australia were the best in each aspect of the game - batting, bowling or fielding- and looked competent enough to complete their hat-trick for World Cup triumph. They had the best opening batsmen in Hayden and Gilchrist, the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world, Adam Gilchrist, a well balanced middle order with Ponting leading at number three followed by Symonds, Watson, Clarke, Hussey, and McGrath once again leading the bowling attack.

They won all the matches once again and beat Sri Lanka in the final match by 53 runs.  The match was interrupted by rain and was finally decided on the Duckworth Lewis method. It was finally a 36- over match. The Sri Lankan team members were probably not at their best but let’s not forget the team also had top names from the industry and they made it to the final. In fact, Sri Lanka lost only two matches in the group stage; a close one against South Africa and another one against Australia.

Batting first Gilchrist smashed 104-ball 149 to lead the team. Thanks to the rain that Australia innings was ended in 38 overs. Otherwise, it could have a haunting memory for Sri Lanka as Clarke and Symonds were present at the crease. Sri Lanka did try with Jayasuriya scoring 63 runs but the asking rate was more than seven from the beginning. The Lankans couldn’t match it and at the end of 36 overs, they were 215/8.

Australia won the World Cup twice when no one expected them to win. They won two more times when they were the best in the lot, although that wasn’t the last time. Whatever the situations were, how good or bad the teams were, how lucky they were- critics will spend time on all these ifs and buts. History of cricket will look at the Australian Cricket Team with the utmost respect for their dominance in the biggest cricket tournament ever played and this matters the most.


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