Oz set new benchmarks for others to follow

Published: Monday, April 30, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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It took one man to make a compelling statement on the state of world cricket. In a team game, it is not often that an individual gets such acclaim and adulation as did Adam Gilchrist on one of the most eventful days in international cricket for a long time.

He won the contest single-handedly, burying Sri Lanka under a flurry of some astonishing strokeplay, giving Australia their rightful ownership of the World Cup, winning it for the third time in a row and fourth overall.

Australia, under the wonderful leadership of Ricky Ponting, set new benchmarks for the rest of the world to follow. By winning their third World Cup final with an overwhelming margin, Australia established themselves as an all-time great side.

They have ruled modern cricket with a smashing record and none should grudge them the coveted World Cup trophy they won at Barbados.

The match may have been truncated but not the entertainment.

The astounding shots that Gilchrist played off the Sri Lankans drove home the difference between Australia and the rest of the world.

The Lankans were motivated but the Australians were possessed with winning and no team has mastered the art of winning as Australia has.

They learn to win from a cricket structure that is as strong as the international circuit. How else can you achieve the level of consistency that Australia does, the level of confidence that Australia does.

Often I hear people talk of Australian arrogance. I don't think that is true. They may be arrogant, they may sledge on the field, but they win. And what matters is victory on the field.

Australia is not known to use unsporting methods. They respect their opposition and decimate them by planning superbly. They do not believe in resting players against weak opponents and they also recognize the value of respecting their seniors and blending their juniors with those established.

Can anyone find fault with the team, their tactics, approach and their vision ? Australia knows how to get the best out of an immensely talented bunch and how to crush the hopes of the opponents.

By winning the final in a one-sided fashion, the Australians demonstrated that they are far superior to the rest of the world. The Champions Trophy victory in India was a fair indication of the team's potential and the World Cup win was an extension of that self-belief. On a perfect pitch, and in conditions that suited his style, Gilchrist took the match away from Sri Lanka with an all-time great innings.

We knew he was struggling right through the tournament but then he had marked the most important match for his act. He was waiting for the big occasion and the manner in which he exploded suggested he was trying to drive home a point.

The trend became evident in a matter of 15 overs. Mathew Hayden and Gilchrist were slow off the block but set a frenetic pace that left Sri Lanka in shambles.

You can not control a batsman who goes over the top at will and Gilchrist's hitting was clinical. He knew it was his day and made the most by blazing his way to a memorable performance. At one stage, a double century from his bat looked a possibility. Maybe, he has reserved it for another big occasion.

I will not find faults with Sri Lanka. They just ran into a twister that created a havoc and when it settled, the world had witnessed a one-man demolition of a talented opposition.

Sri Lanka had strong reasons to believe they stood a very good chance of becoming the world champions but they had no answer to Gilchrist, who showed why Australia has come to dominate international cricket for 16 years now.

Even as the world celebrates Australia's epic achievements, let us not forget to salute Glenn McGrath, a tireless role model, who signed off in style.

That he decided to bid good bye when at his peak speaks for the system that Australia has promoted. McGrath was crowned the Man-of-the-Series and yet he stuck to his decision to gracefully quit the game and devote time to his family.

We should appreciate his decision and I also marvel at his character. His commitment to Australian cricket was total and speaks for his mental strength.

I conclude by congratulating Australia for setting new standards in world cricket. It was not the best of World Cups. It was too long, had too many teams, and too many drab matches. But in the end it had a worthy champion.


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