Australia deserves every bit of it

Published : Aug 25, 2001 00:00 IST

SALUTE the Australians. With the Ashes triumph, Steve Waugh and his men have once again demonstrated their remarkable potential. They have given a new meaning to resilience and I must say it is a dream side. A team which deserves to be rated among the top five of all times, if not the best.

In modern cricket, I don't think any team has matched the consistency of Australia. Under the wonderful captaincy of Steve Waugh, it has attained a stature unmatched really. That Australia would beat this English side so convincingly was not really expected before the first ball of the series was bowled but then Steve Waugh and his marvellous bunch have been scaling great heights, except for the hiccup in India.

These peaks were conquered through tactical planning and some successful execution of those strategies. The Australians showed enough aggression this summer and were rewarded with the best Test status officially. None would have grudged the Australians this grand honour.

The India-Australia series in India shall remain one of the great competitions the game has seen. It revived the interest in Test cricket and the Aussies under Steve Waugh have played a major role in ensuring the popularity of the five-day variety.

I have nothing against limited overs cricket but the Australians have proved that Test cricket is the ultimate test and the Ashes had some glorious moments to drive home this point. The emphasis was on producing quality cricket and Australia deserves all the praise for having maintained the tempo all through.

Australia did shine even in its defeat in India and the same team looked so ruthless against its traditional rivals, if one could say so. The Ashes has remained the most keenly followed cricket competition for its sheer tradition and I was among the millions who followed it with interest.

As I have said earlier in these columns, the most significant feature of a successful team is its ability to give its best when it matters and Australia, in my opinion, has really mastered the art of reserving its best for the big stage. England looked a confident side on the eve of the series because it had played some good cricket in the season. Many were of the opinion before the Ashes began that England was likely to give Australia a run for its money.

England may not have excelled in the first one-day tri-series to be staged in the home of cricket but there was enough to suggest that England had the strength to trouble Australia. The optimism was based on some good results but then it had not reckoned with the determination of Australia. It is a great quality that Steve Waugh and his men project when faced with a challenge. The ability to raise its game is what actually separates Australia from the rest.

I can say from personal experience that it takes a lot of guts to do well when the situation demands the best from you. It was an emphatic demonstration of character by the Australians who value the Ashes triumph much more than most other feats on the cricket field. Steve Waugh may have been guarded in his pre-series assessment but that I thought was a ploy.

The mental toughness of the Australians left a big impression on me. I had always known the Australians to be tough but then to maintain this quality for long spells in international cricket is what needs to be admired and emulated by the current crop of young cricketers. The Indians, especially, must try and learn a few lessons from the Australians even though they may still like to bask in the glory of their home triumph against Steve Waugh and his men. Not many teams can claim the kind of depth that Australia enjoys. It boasts of a treasure where someone like Michael Slater does not get to play one-day cricket. He is such an attacking batsman and one who is known to bat positively in all circumstances and yet the competition is so fierce that he does not find a place in the team for the limited overs cricket.

I don't think I have seen as complete a team as Australia. It has everything that contributes to make it a great side. Splendid openers are backed by a solid middle order and then the batting depth extends right up to number nine. The attack is so balanced that Steve Waugh can afford to relax most of the time. He can afford to experiment, a luxury no other international captain can afford these days.

The Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly, happens to be the most harassed cricketer on earth but he can draw inspiration from Steve Waugh, the steely customer from New South Wales. Steve Waugh has been a successful captain, a worthy leader of a bunch of immensely talented men and a senior statesman worthy of respect from one and all. He has led Australia splendidly and deserves the credit for it.

Just see the difference between the Aussies and the rest. The South Africans might come close to causing discomfort to the Australians but then there is a strong feeling in favour of the latter. I would like to see a series between Australia and South Africa and I am sure one can expect some explosive stuff when they meet.

That is what makes cricket so exciting. Explosive stuff with the game swinging from one end to another. I know there are great supporters of limited overs cricket but to me there is nothing like a good Test series and the Ashes did spring some fantastic moments.

There might have been a few lessons for the Englishmen from the defeat but then the cricketing world had so much to learn even as cricket was so enjoyable. The Australian triumph was a triumph of spirit and did give the right message to the cricketing world. When it comes to consistency, there is none to beat the Australians.

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