Originally Posted by Matt79
Yep - Australia have totally raised the bar in there performance here. They have found a brilliant formula to succeed in big tournaments, and have an almost perfectly balanced squad. Its getting hard to find enough superlatives to properly describe the level of consistently brilliant play they have achieved.
First, to applaud Sri Lanka. They showed admirable skill, determination and sportsmanship in first reaching the final, and then competing in it. They made much more of a game of the final than either the 99 or 03 versions, and it was deeply regretable that the weather intervened and marred their, to that point, fine performance. I was particularly impressed with Malinga - he looks to be a real prospect to be a genuinely good pace bowler and should hold his head high for the way he's performed this tournament. Jayasuriya batted with his customary verve and for a while looked like he would at least keep SL right in the match - a not inconsiderable feat given what Gilchrist had done. Sangakkara showed enormous class - first in the field when he immediately confirmed he had not taken a catch, and then with the bat. He had a somewhat dirty day behind the stumps, but batted with great intent and composure. And credit to Mahela Jayawardene for at least preserving some sanity in the debacle that ensued at the end of the match - he's confirmed through this tournament that he is a player and captain of substance, and a very good sport.
Australia were simply awesome. They played the best ODI cricket I've ever seen played this tournament and were just irresistable. It was a phenomenon that fed upon itself, as the Australian team's confidence grew with every match, and the belief and will of the opposition to resist and contend with them diminished. Much has been said about SL's decision to rest Vaas and Murali during the Super 8s. I think it was a mistake because the ONLY way anyone was going to stop Australia winning the final was to make a dent in that sense of confidence and show the other teams that they weren't invincible. Otherwise, teams defeated themselves in over-thinking and second-guessing and trying to play Australia's game, rather than their own. This was demonstrated most starkly by SA in the semi-final. It was a phenomonal team effort, with Hayden brilliant through most of the tournament and Ponting consistently successful in a form of brilliance that appeared almost matter-of-fact compared to Hayden's explosivenss. Clarke also appeared understated by comparison, but was in fact very very good as well. Gilchrist was solid without being great until the final, where he produced one of the alltime great ODI knocks and proved to be the difference on the day between the teams. With the ball, Bracken was economical and always dangerous early. Tait was a revelation. Hogg was fantastic, especially given his poor form leading into the tournament. Faced with these three, the opposition tried to target a supposedly old and worn McGrath and Watson. McGrath's greatness in this tournament was assisted by the lack of respect foolishly shown to him by some batsmen who should have known better, but he also used all the skill and guile he had accumulated in 15 years in the game at the top level to great effect. This tournament stands as a worthy epitaph to a great career. Watto rarely threatened to take many wickets, but was effective and economical enough as a fifth bowler, and did well to go for well under 5 an over given his still developing skill-set as a bowler, and the fact that he was the one link in the attack batsmen felt able to attack with confidence.
I thought Ponting captained brillantly through the tournament - I can't really remember him missing a trick. He's shown himself to have a great understanding of the rhythm of the shorter form of the game and has matured into a confident, relaxed leader of his men.
The loss of McGrath, and presumably in the next year or two Gilchrist, Hayden, and Hogg, will of course affect this. However Ponting will continue for quite a while yet, and is now, IMO emerged as a genuine contender for the best #3 in ODI history - and I think the world of Viv Richard's record in that capacity. Time will almost inevitably probably weary him and its unlikely he will be able to continue without his form coming back to that of the pack at some point, but it doesn't appear to be likely to happen anytime soon.
Symonds should be good for another few years, and in Clarke, Hussey, Lee, Bracken and Tait the Aussie team has a core that should be good to stick together for several more years and be better than any other team they are likely to encounter. Add to that the emergence, at last, of Watson as a player worthy of his place in the team and the balance he provides, and players in the wings like Hodge and Haddin, and it isn't foolish to think this team can stay on top for a long time to come.
There was a great article today on cricinfo referring to Gilchrist and McGrath's comments about the team spirit and sense of belief, and how that helps individual players to keep on producing their best. You can see in everything the team does the belief they have in each other and the dedication they have to the team cause - this is, as much as any physical attributes or level of talent, what separates them from the rest.
The other factor outside of the XI that makes this team so good is the medical support. Mark Nicholas mentioned this several times through the final, but Andrew Symonds was considered a slim chance to play any matches in the WC, and was thought unlikely to be fully fit at all. Instead, he took the field during the group stage, and played - apparently fully fit - every game after that. Shane Watson suffered a calf-strain that should probably have ended his tournament - he came back for the NZ game and again appeared fully-fit. The low rate of injury in the Australian team is phenomenal, especially when you consider the derision they have copped as a "Dad's Army" of old blokes at times. When you look at the inability of teams like NZ to consistently field their best XI, this success in keeping the best team on the park, and getting injured players right, has been a real key.
The question is what can the rest of world cricket do to match this, if anything? I honestly don't think waiting for a drop off in the Aussies is likely to be a path for success - and if I really knew how to do it, I could probably get a one of the half-dozen coaching jobs that are currently available.