Players from the champion sides relive their World Cup journeys

'We had put too much pressure on ourselves'

1999, part one,: Damien Fleming recalls Australia's poor start to the 1999 World Cup, and what it took to turn things around (00:00)

March 7, 2011


'We had put too much pressure on ourselves'

March 7, 2011

Well we were in the West Indies in the preparation before the World Cup in the year 1999, we had a seven one-day series there which we drew. But it was an interesting series, we had a few riots and all that sort of stuff. And then we had a week's holiday before we got over to England. So virtually we started playing the players who would play a big part in the World Cup. We were still trying some different combinations. But most of the guys got themselves into reasonable form, so we were pretty confident when we got to Cardiff, which was our base, leading into the tournament.

So Cardiff, was our base for the first week there, and our coach was Geoff Marsh, captain Steve Waugh. We talked about some different plans, different KPIs [Key Performance Indicators], looked like Glenn McGrath was going to bowl first-change, a little bit like what Allan Donald was doing for South Africa. So I was told to be prepared to open the bowling with anyone really. I hoped that someone like Adam Dale would be a real handful in those swinging conditions. We also thought we really needed to make a mark in the series; eight of us had played in the 1996 World Cup and lost to Sri Lanka, so there was a fair bit of hurt there. We also felt that one-day cricket was a poor cousin to Test cricket in some way, and that we wanted to make it very significant. So we came up with a plan to actually put numbers on the cap, to signify that being a one-day player meant as much as being a Test player, and to win a World Cup was as big as winning the Ashes series. So Steve Waugh was the one who really initiated that, and Tom Moody went and got the hats all embroidered, and all of a sudden we had our numbers on there.

I think it was a significant thing, we gelled as a team, and how important the World Cup was. So that brought some impetus to the team.

Something that stopped us on our tracks was when our coach Geoff Marsh mentioned the three words that Australian cricket's don't want to hear, and it wasn't Shane Warne's sex scandal. It was a total drinking ban.

The funny thing is that as the coach mentioned the two words "drinking", and he only got to "b" before Tom Moody realised what he was going to say. He hopped up and said, "hang on, hang on, we need to talk about this." I looked around at the rest of the boys, and they weren't happy. They were kicking the dirt, guys were shaking their head, and Darren Lehmann started crying. That the drinking ban… was it worth playing for Australia? Luckily Tom Moody got some concessions, but basically we had a drinking ban, but on a serious note of that, however, if there is a serious note, I felt that we had got to the biggest tournament of our life, and the captain and the coach had enforced something on us. Now, in six months out, if we had committed to the team that we weren't going to drink throughout the World Cup, well, there's the ownership and we are going to get through that. I just felt a little bit wary that we had got to the biggest tournament of our lives and there were things forced on the team that they weren't totally happy with.

First game was against Scotland, and what a big build-up. It was our first game of the tournament. We had not played much against them before, not surprising; I think they took up cricket two months before that, the Scottish team. I got the honour to bowl the first ball in the tournament, and I was visualising a late-swinging outswinger to hopefully get a nick behind to Adam Gilchrist or Mark Waugh. I think we had four slips in place. So much to my surprise, I delivered the outswinger and the opening batsman from Scotland smashed it through the covers for four. So all of a sudden we were none for four after one ball in the tournament, and we proceeded to bowl pretty poorly. And with the bat I think we lost four or five wickets chasing that. So the coach and the captain were not happy after the game so we copped a bit of spray. It wasn't really the right way to start the tournament, and that close win really indicated where we were, and our form going in the practice matches wasn't great. So all of a sudden we were in a bit of trouble.

W e lost the next two games to New Zealand and Pakistan, and all of a sudden you are in that ugly position where you have won one from three and you are relying on the results and have to winning every game. So after Pakistan loss at Headingley, we had a bit of a crisis meeting and all of sudden there were different theories going along. The night before, after the loss, myself and Adam Dale were having a few beers in the pub, and we talked about our lives, of course, of our drinking ban. We felt like our bowling plans weren't specific enough, that there were too many grey areas, that maybe we need break it down - 0 to15, 16 to 40, 41 to 50 - and really get some plans there. So we went into a meeting and we were told to explain a little bit more, and having some specific goals.

Michael Bevan, who was a very tense type of cricketer, a brilliant cricketer in the one-day format, felt we were putting too much pressure on ourselves. It was quite alarming that one of our intense cricketers was feeling that we were putting too much pressure on ourselves. All in all, I think it got out that we weren't giving ourselves the best chance to win. We needed to maybe tweak our key performance indicators a little bit as well. Tom Moody brought up the alcohol issue and that relaxed the situation a little.

So all of a sudden we committed to these goals, and once we walked out of that door in the Headingley dressing room, I think we were a lot more committed, because we had a lot more ownership. And when you've got ownership, you've got responsibilities as well. It was funny, once it was clear enough that we had to win every game, the momentum started going our way.

It was funny that we set our standards not just to win, but to win well. We looked to dominate Bangladesh, which we did, and so momentum was starting to go our way. Then we played against West Indies.

It was interesting that Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne hadn't performed to their high standards so far in the tournament. I was having breakfast the day before the game, and McGrath was writing for the paper, and he basically said that he wasn't happy with his form but it was starting to come out well in the nets. He felt like he was going to have a big game and he backed himself to get a five-for, and he was going to knock over Brian Lara.

Now, for my type of cricketer, reading that I thought I could not write that article, because imagine if I got none for 60 or none for 70, imagine the bagging that I would have copped from my team-mates and the press. But it shows that the great players put themselves under pressure and they back themselves to perform. In that game, it was as good as I saw McGrath bowl, I think he got 5 for 12 [14] from nine overs. Including bowling Lara with one that pitched on middle and leg and hit the top of off stump.

Then we got ourselves into a tricky position, where, because of our run-rate, we wanted to avoid South Africa. We just needed to take the time to get to the victory. So, Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh basically blocked it out, and we won in the specific over that we wanted to win in. It got a lot of booing and all that but when you are there to win a World Cup you are happy to win ugly.

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