Aussies look invincible, set to retain crown, says Marsh
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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Johannesburg: Ricky Ponting's Australia on Wednesday received the thumbs up to win the World Cup from a man familiar with both the sweat and hard work of players and the mental agony of a coach. Geoff Marsh, the former Australian opening batsman, was a member of Allan Border's side which beat England in the final at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta in 1987. He then coached Steve Waugh's team to repeat the feat in the 1999 final at Lord's when Australia thrashed Pakistan by eight wickets. Marsh, who now coaches Zimbabwe, believes the current Australians are well on their way to retaining the title in the final at the Wanderers on March 23. "The next period of the tournament is obviously the key but they're looking a real class act at the moment," Marsh said after his Zimbabwe team lost to the defending champions at Bulawayo on Monday. It was Australia's fourth successive win in Group 'A', making it the first team in the 14-nation tournament to advance to the Super Sixes. A victory over minnow Namibia at Potchefstoom on Thursday will almost certainly give it the top spot in the group. "It is a very different side from 1999," Marsh said. "Most of its senior players now were still sort of finding their way back then. Because of the way we started in 1999, every game was a grand final for us. That's probably why the guys in this Australian team feel it's a lot more relaxed atmosphere now. "It'll be tough to beat from here," he said. In 1999, Australia was on the verge of elimination in the first round itself when it lost to both Pakistan and New Zealand. A victory over the West Indies after defeating minnows Scotland and Bangladesh prevented the embarrassment, while a century by captain Steve Waugh against South Africa booked the semi-final berth. A thrilling semi-final tie against Hansie Cronje's Proteas saw the Australians advance to the final on the basis of a higher finish in the Super Sixes. On the other hand, Ponting's men have been ruthless in crushing Pakistan, India, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe even in the absence of the banned leg spinner Shane Warne. Marsh's Zimbabwe, which also lost to India, must defeat the Dutch and Pakistan in its last two games to stay in contention for the next round. "It can be done," Marsh said, "because we have the players to do it." Marsh played 50 Tests for Australia, scoring 2,854 runs, and 117 One-day Internationals in which he made 4,357 runs.