Australia in World Cup: Very, very successful!

Australia has utterly owned ODI cricket’s showpiece event, the World Cup, by winning four of the last five titles although it struggled in the tournament’s early years.

Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist with the 2007 World Cup. All three were part of the 1999, 2003 and 2007 World Cup-winning teams, with Ponting as captain in the latter two editions.   -  Reuters

Australia relishes the swirl of anticipation of the World Cup. There are periods where it slumps and plays with apparent apathy, but as the World Cup arrives, Australia seems to click into gear and lock into the requisite task at hand. Here’s how it has fared in the earlier editions:

1975

The inaugural tournament featured a strong Australian team with numerous legends headlined by captain Ian Chappell, star batsman Greg Chappell and the frightening fast bowling tandem of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

Australia performed well but was outmatched against the other great team of the era — the West Indies, which it lost to twice including the thrilling final by 17 runs.

1979

The seeds of Australia’s miserable first-round exit were sowed two years earlier when Australian media magnate Kerry Packer rocked the establishment by luring top players to his World Series Cricket (WSC). It meant stars like the Chappell brothers, Lillee and Thomson were unable to compete. Unsurprisingly, an inexperienced Kim Hughes-led Australia endured a failed campaign.

1983

An ageing Lillee and Thomson were back for Australia, which was once again led by Hughes. Much like four years earlier, Australia struggled and was humiliated first up by lowly Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge.

Australia lost four times — including two thrashings to bogey team the West Indies — to complete another lacklustre World Cup.

1987

Australia had become a basket case in the mid-1980s and no one expected Allan Border’s young team to do much in the subcontinent. Through the emergence of new stars such as Steve Waugh, an inspired Australia rallied against the odds and defeated England in a memorable final by seven runs at Eden Gardens.

The triumph was a defining moment for Australia’s eventual ascension as cricket’s undisputed powerhouse a decade later.

1992

Perhaps Australia’s most disappointing campaign with the World Cup staged Down Under for the first time. A slow start proved costly for Australia, which lost three of its first four matches to narrowly miss out on the semifinals.

1996

The mighty Mark Taylor-led Australia suffered a surprise loss to red-hot Sri Lanka in the final, but it conjured a pair of memorable victories beforehand. A brilliant Mark Waugh century led Australia to a chase down of 287 — which is probably the equivalent of 350 these days — against New Zealand in the quarters.

Australia went one better in the semis when it defeated the West Indies out of nowhere. The West Indies was cruising to the 208 total at 165-3 before Shane Warne’s magic triggered a remarkable collapse. Australia won by five runs.

The 2015 World Cup final was Australian captain Michael Clarke’s final ODI and his teammates gave him a triumphant send-off.   -  AFP

 

1999

This might be Australia’s most revered triumph after struggling early. Steve Waugh’s brilliant century inspired victory over South Africa to ensure qualification into the semis — where, of course, the teams clashed in the greatest ODI of all time.

The infamous brain fade from Lance Klusener and Allan Donald ensured Australia progressed and its momentum overpowered Pakistan in a lopsided final.

2003

Australia was in turmoil on World Cup eve when Warne was suspended for testing positive to a banned diuretic. It didn’t matter. Brad Hogg replaced Warne to perfection and Ricky Ponting’s team swept through the tournament. It repeated as champion after thumping India in the final.

2007

Amazingly, Australia was even more dominant than four years before. It was never challenged even though it lost pace spearhead Brett Lee on World Cup eve. Shaun Tait proved a more than adequate replacement as Australia thrashed Sri Lanka in the final to complete another undefeated campaign and a three-peat of titles.

2011

Australia’s golden era had ended. Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath had all retired since the previous World Cup. Australia lost to Pakistan in the group stages — its first World Cup loss since early in the ’99 edition.

Australia’s World Cup dominance ended in the quarters when host India engineered a nerveless run chase of 261.

2015

Back on home soil, Australia regained its crown. Stacked with power-hitting through the order, Australia slayed attacks and was even more devastating with the ball — led by the mastery of left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, who was almost unplayable throughout.

Australia was back on the ODI throne after an easy victory over New Zealand in front of a record cricket crowd at the MCG. It was also the perfect ODI swansong for captain Michael Clarke.