Dominance of a chilling dimension

The tournament felt dull and long and the matches bereft of any spice, but if there was an inevitability about Australia winning the World Cup, the blame lies with the rest of the sides for being so far behind, writes Shreedutta Chidananda.

In a tournament that came to be remembered for its hapless, disorganised denouement, Australia produced a relentlessly organised performance to crush all competition. Australia’s third straight World Cup triumph was arguably the most dominant showing by any team in the history of the competition.

The margins of victory bear out this brutal superiority: 53 runs (SL, final), 7 wickets (SA, semifinal), 215 runs (NZ), 7 wickets (SL), 9 wickets (Irl), 7 wickets (Eng), 10 wickets (Bang), 103 runs (WI), 83 runs (SA), 229 runs (Ned), 203 runs (Sco). No team managed to bowl out Australia, which stretched its unbeaten run to 29 straight World Cup matches.

“We’ve dominated this tournament like no team has dominated a tournament before,” Ricky Ponting said later. “We’ve never really been tested. In 2003, there were a few situations where it looked like we were going to lose. In 1999, it was the exact opposite. After two or three games, we had to win every game from there on in.”

Ponting was one of several excellent cricketers at the vanguard of Australia’s rampant charge to victory, but Glenn McGrath has to emerge with the greatest credit. In his final series of international matches, ‘Pigeon’ troubled batsmen no end, his 26 wickets the most a bowler has taken in a single World Cup. He had good support from Shaun Tait (23), Brad Hogg (21), and Nathan Bracken (16) — four of the six highest wicket-takers were Australian.

Matthew Hayden bulldozed bowlers on his way to 659 runs, three hundreds among them, while Ponting was not too far behind with an aggregate of 539. For impact, though, it is hard to overlook Adam Gilchrist’s blazing century in the final, which knocked the stuffing out of Sri Lanka.

For Gilchrist and many in the Australian side, this was going to be the last appearance at a World Cup. There had been a spate of Test retirements a year earlier, so it clearly felt like the end of an era. Also on his way out was Australia’s coach John Buchanan, who had overseen a period of unmatched glory in the team’s history.

“He’s always been overlooked,” Ponting said later, of him. “It’s not easy to come into a team that’s been winning and make it even better. But myself, Gilly, Glenn, Matty — all those players elevated their game after he came in.”

The final was a disappointment for its pathetic mismanagement by ICC officials. With the rules misunderstood by the umpires, the match was completed in pitch darkness. “I’d be disappointed if the focus is on 15 or 20 minutes at the end rather than the way we’ve played throughout the tournament,” McGrath said. “It’s been a natural progression, to not only win every game but to win every game convincingly.”

The tournament felt dull and long and the matches bereft of any spice, but if there was an inevitability about Australia winning the World Cup, the blame lies with the rest of the sides for being so far behind.