Australia: We are The Champions!
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
The 5 time World Cup winners may not be among the favourites this time but you can be sure that when the tournament commences, they will have their ‘World Cup faces’ on.
‘We are The Champions’, the timeless hit of the legendary band Queen, could well be the anthem of the Australian Men’s Cricket Team. The men from Down Under are the undisputed champions when it comes to The World Cup, having held aloft the trophy on 5 out of the 11 occasions that the event has been staged. That is a staggering 45.5% conversion rate. For a single team to have, considering that it’s a world event and comprises several other strong teams, it is astounding. No other nation has won the cup more than twice, with the powerful West Indies teams of the 70s and 80s winning back-to-back trophies in the earliest editions in 1975 and ’79, while sub-continent giants India accounting for the trophy in 1983 and 2011, 28 years apart. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the only other nations to have ever won the quadrennial event.
If their victory in 1987 gave them the belief that they could be the best, then their hat-trick of victories in ’99,’03 & ’07 only went on to cement their legacy as the greatest cricketing nation at The World Cup. Added to that, they have been runners-up on 2 occasions (1975 & ’96) and a quarter-finalist once (2011), which clearly shows that when it comes to the world cup, there is no other team like the men in green and gold. Such has been their dominance at the world’s premier cricket event, that despite not being among the favourites this time around, it would be extremely unwise to count them out as one of the contenders.
So what makes Australia such a formidable force at The World Cup?
To answer this question we’ll have to take a look at Australia’s sporting culture as a whole. Australia is a very proud sporting nation and sport forms an integral part of almost every Australian family. Young boys and girls are encouraged to take up sports, and a competitive spirit and will to win are inculcated into their psyche at a very young age. A ‘never say die’ attitude and tremendous self-belief are the other ingredients that form part of the Australian sporting mentality. ‘Play tough’ is the Aussie sporting mantra. They take great pride in playing and representing their teams. Their ability to handle pressure and stay clear headed in tough situations is also another vital ingredient. All these factors combine to give Australians a winning edge, which has seen them, triumph in various sports ranging from cricket, rugby, and tennis to several disciplines at the Olympics.
This winning mentality is brought to every contest by the Australian men’s and women’s cricket teams. Complimenting their mental toughness is a well planned and executed cricket structure that ensures high-quality cricketers are churned out regularly to meet the future demands of Australian cricket. The Australian cricketers are thus an amalgamation of high skill, indefatigable spirit and unflagging mental toughness, which makes them the ultimate competitors. Their belief ‘that they can win from any situation’ and then ‘trusting their skills’ to make it happen is what makes the Aussies such a formidable force, not only in World Cups but in any contest. They are driven and hardwired for success, which has seen them succeed like no other team on the planet.
Take for instance the 1987 tournament. Having lost a huge number of their players to the rebel tours to South Africa, Australia under Allan Border was in rebuilding mode. A slew of youngsters was brought in to reshape the team. It was against this backdrop that Australia entered the World Cup. Hosts India and Pakistan were expected to contest the finals and no-hoper Australia went about their campaign in an efficient and effective manner. They first stunned joint favourites India by a solitary run before gunning down mighty Pakistan in the semi-final. They then battled old-enemy England in the final, in a seesaw encounter, before ultimately prevailing by 7 runs and clinching The Reliance Cup (The World Cups were named after their title sponsors before being officially named The ICC World Cup from the ’99 event onwards).
The ’92 World Cup saw them suffer the ill effects of a long home season against India. Despite being staged at home and being overwhelming favourites, the hosts exited the tournament at the round robin stage itself. They would regain their mojo in the next edition (’96) and make it all the way to the final before succumbing to Sri Lanka who were on a mission to reshape their cricket destiny.
There is no better example of Australia's ability to handle pressure than the ’99 World Cup, which was staged in England. They were on the brink of elimination but stormed back to win 7 matches on the trot and lift the most coveted prize in the game. Most teams would have caved under that kind of pressure but for the men in canary yellow, that was their motivation. Furthermore, they avoided defeat on 2 occasions to favourites South Africa when all seemed lost. They held their nerves both times while The Proteas lost theirs. That triumph was their most hard fought and it marked the beginning of an era of domination, which saw them go undefeated over the next two editions (2003 & ’07). It was also during this period that coach John Buchanan, along with Steve Waugh at first and then Ricky Ponting later, established a ruthless streak in the Aussies that saw them demolish every team that came in their way, both in Test and ODI cricket.
With the retirements of their legends Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath, Australia entered the 2011 edition without their aura of invincibility. They nonetheless put up a good show and went down fighting to hosts and eventual winners India in a high-octane quarterfinal. The 2015 tournament saw the event return Down Under and despite a loss to co-hosts New Zealand, they went on a 6 match-winning streak to reclaim the trophy and be crowned champions for a record fifth time. Their pedigree is unquestionable and they enter the 2019 edition with an unimaginable sixth crown on their minds.
Lets take a look at The Defending Champions' arsenal at this World Cup:
Solid and deep batting line-up
The batting is bolstered by the return of match winners David Warner and Steve Smith to the line-up. Skipper Aaron Finch, southpaws Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh, the latter two have been in imperious form of late, add solidity to the batting. Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis follow them to then provide the firepower at the end of the innings. The team bats all the way down till no.10, with Starc, Cummins, Coulter-Nile and Zampa all handy batsmen (Behrendorff being the only exception).
Aggressive bowling attack
Every bowler in the attack is of an aggressive mindset and each one a wicket-taker. Man-of-the Tournament in the last World Cup, Mitchell Starc, despite a loss in form, is expected to lead the attack once again. He’s joined by fellow towering left-armer Jason Behrendorff, the world’s top paceman Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson in the pace bowling unit. Marcus Stoinis compliments them as a back up slow medium pacer. Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa make up the spinners in the team with Glenn Maxwell and skipper Aaron Finch to back them up.
Having an all-rounder in a team gives a side an extra dimension. Having a brace of them is pure gold. In Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, Australia are blessed to have 2 batting all-rounders who more often than not will fill in the fifth bowler’s quota. Maxwell’s off-spin and Stoinis’ medium pace also lends an extra blend to the attack. Both being big-hitters as well, they will provide the innings with the impetus it needs towards the back end.
Knowledge of being champions
The Aussies are 5 time champions and will bring that experience and knowledge of winning into the World Cup. The team also comprises 6 players who were part of the winning squad that lifted the trophy 4 years ago. Knowing how to win and what it takes will give them the ‘belief’ that a lot of other teams will not have. This in itself gives them an extra edge during the high-pressure event.
Ability to handle pressure
The Australians' ability to handle pressure is legendary. They more often than not keep their calm when other teams panic. This is a massive advantage to have when it comes to the crunch moments in match and when the pressure is at its peak.
England and India maybe the overwhelming favourites for the title, but this is Australia we’re talking about and come the World Cup, you can bet they’ll have their ‘World Cup faces’ on!