They are now the World Champions. The Aussies rise as one on the Lord's balcony to mark a stupendous achievement. It is an abstract term that distinguishes certain people in the Southern hemisphere from the rest of the world.
It is a term that conveys a lot about their attitude and their approach to life in general. It is a term often heard in sporting arenas. One must put down Steve Waugh and his team's escapades in the seventh World Cup as typically Australian. They were in danger of being knocked out for three weeks. That they overcame all these struggles, warded off dangers, crossed impossible hurdles and reached new frontiers in excellence, was a clear manifestation of their Southern Cross virtue, which is Australian.
This Australian trait can be found in the achievements and the triumphant deeds of its cricketers, who wear the baggy green cap with great pride and play the game as hard as any one can think of. Their unique character was brought to the fore by Steve Waugh's team that defeated Pakistan to win the World Cup for the second time in 12 years.
The one-sided final, in the presence of thousands of Pakistan supporters, reflected their passion and urge to give nothing away in what was the last knockout match of the 12-nation competition.
The new ball bowlers Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming provided the early breakthroughs and then Shane Warne took charge. The bowlers were backed by superb fielding inside the circle and in the deep. It was a stunning result to a final that was expected to provide a fitting finale.
The Australians had executed their plan to perfection. The man behind the operation was the captain, Steve Waugh, gaunt looking, aggressive, persistent and unyielding. The Pakistan batsmen discovered Waugh's manoeuvring ways in the final.
"The pressure of knowing that so many times, it was 'win or go home' made this so special. Sometimes it is hard to believe we can dig as deep as we have at times. There was less pressure on us 12 years ago, because we were ranked about sixth or seventh best team in the World in Tests and One Day Internationals. These days most teams can beat each other on any given day. So it is tougher to achieve the consistency we needed. We were relentless throughout," said Waugh.
He appeared confident of winning the Cup. The previous day, at the Royal Garden, he pointed out that the Australian players were products of a sound coaching system. "But most of the Pakistan players do not have this benefit. They are naturals, who can be brilliant on their day." Waugh exploited the flaws of the Pakistan batsmen, revealing his shrewd brain and tactics, which he had picked up from Allan Border and Mark Taylor under whom he played for a decade.
This is an extract from the full story that first appeared in The Hindu on June 21, 1999.
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