Australia v New Zealand, final, Melbourne March 28, 2015

Australia look to heal an old wound

In 1992, they were completely underprepared and had to face the ignominy of an early exit at home. A win on Sunday would go a long way towards removing the scars of that failure
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Australia turned up far too late at the 1992 World Cup, by which time they were already eliminated © Getty Images

As is typical of wicketkeepers, Ian Healy was always the most fastidious man in Australian teams of which he was a part. Always neatly dressed, he diarised his cricket with great detail, summing up thoughts, actions and words whether they be good or ill. He kept this up even in retirement, retaining all the shirts, caps and other accoutrements of his many series and tours.

There was one exception to this, as Healy discovered upon being asked by Australia's team management to speak to the 2015 World Cup squad. Rummaging around his Brisbane home, Healy could not find his gold shirt from the 1992 tournament - an extended search revealed only his sleeveless sweatshirt from the event.

"It shows," he said, "how little I wanted to remember it."

Like Healy, a generation of Australian cricketers look back on the 1992 World Cup as the major blot on an era of success and rejuvenation. Underprepared, panicked and playing catch-up against teams who had clearly thought more about the tournament than they had, Australia did not get themselves into gear until it was too late, and ended their contribution with a match against the West Indies that they won despite being eliminated earlier that day, by dint of Pakistan's win over New Zealand.

Under the leadership of Martin Crowe, New Zealand had made the 1992 tournament a priority, where Australia seemed to view it as rather a tedious adjunct to the summer's annual World Series. The coach Bob Simpson was awarded a contract extension before the event, meaning his job was not on the line as it went wrong, and the captain Allan Border had long since been enshrined as a leader of sufficient standing to call his own time on playing.

Nevertheless, the 1992 campaign has grated on Australian cricket for 23 years, as the current team has been endlessly reminded by the likes of Healy, Geoff Marsh, Border and the assistant coach Craig McDermott. The 2015 campaign has been plentifully informed by the lessons and ghosts of 1992, but there will be echoes of the elder team's failure should Australia fall against New Zealand at the MCG.

It was against New Zealand of course that Border's men first tripped up, beaten comfortably in the tournament opener at Eden Park by Crowe's batting and captaincy wiles. They have been far savvier this time, avoiding mistakes just as surely as the 1992 team made them.

Australia's ODI team has occupied a curious place in Cricket Australia's planning over the past four years since the 2011 tournament and the Argus review that followed. Initially it was used as a proving ground for potential Test players, while teams were chosen on a match-by-match basis and looked entirely unsettled - the triangular series of 2011-12 being the only time one Ryan Harris was ever dropped for reasons of form, so anxious had he become about his place in the 50-over side.

Though they won countless trophies afterwards, including three World Cups, 1992 has always cast a shadow over Australian cricket © Getty Images

But time, both its passing and its running out, as provided valuable clarity, the Cup drawing closer and the team growing more consistent in both its selection and its performance. The wresting back of the No.1 ODI ranking was an important moment, signalling that Australia were gathering strength leading into a World Cup, rather than having it ebb away as it did ahead of 2011.

The dual captaincy of Michael Clarke and George Bailey has not always been smooth, but ultimately worked because of Clarke's skills on the field and Bailey's equanimity and maturity away from it. His running of messages out to the players during Thursday's successful defence of 328 against India in the semi-final was a reminder of how Bailey has remained important to this team and squad even after his place was taken by Clarke's return.

Both men have been important in helping mould a style that works commandingly well in Australia, and also takes best advantage of the ODI playing conditions used at this tournament and first favoured by the CA chairman Wally Edwards. There is a mood for these - notably the two new balls and the restriction of only four men outside the fielding circle - to change after the tournament. They have been advantageous to an Australian side not placing much emphasis at all on reverse swing or spin bowling.

Other players have also been managed nicely, not least the pace-bowling brigade of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. The mere fact that Australia have a full squad of 15 to choose from for the final is a point of enormous credit to the physio Alex Kountouris, the doctor Peter Brukner and the strength and conditioning coach Damian Mednis in particular. This has been the longest and most draining of summers.

They will be able to look on with some satisfaction on Sunday afternoon, having guided the team through a season of trials both physical and emotional. So too will the coach Darren Lehmann, an important source of advice but most critically the architect of an environment neither too taut nor too lazy. Lehmann won two World Cups in his career, and among the team Clarke, Shane Watson and Johnson all know what it is like to celebrate victory in the final.

But there is not an Australian cricketer alive who can boast of winning the Cup at home, merely a group of older heads still shaking their heads and muttering about the opportunity missed in 1992. Australia won countless trophies in the years to follow, but they could never erase that stain. To win this time around would go some way towards doing so.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ThreePIllarTales on March 29, 2015, 2:36 GMT

    Interesting to see how most of the Black Caps who have never played at the coliseum fare with 95 thousand fans. People who have not been to the G have no appreciation of the immense impact of the noise from the funnel architecture and the huge size. As a kid, I could hear the crowd from my home 3 km away at 80 thousand strong ! Grand Finals, Boxing Day tests, F1 and huge events have always been amazing at the G and other Melbourne sporting arenas. We know how to do sport ! Yes we made a few mistakes but mostly awesome.

  • mamboman on March 29, 2015, 2:30 GMT

    And you know the funny thing? Pound for pound the '92 side was better than the '15 side - but the '15 side is machine more powerful than the sum of its parts.

  • rogan on March 29, 2015, 0:55 GMT

    The 1992 Australian team was overrated. Relying on players past their best, Geoff Marsh (151 runs at a S/R of 41?), O'Donnell, Hughes, Whitney, even Border, Moody and Jones. Only Boon really performed at an acceptable level among the batsmen. They got very low scores against the 4 ultimate semi finalists. Warne had already debuted and a bit more imagination might have seen Warne in the WC squad. But no one at that time could have foretold how good he was going to be... ultimately, world class players are more likely to win important matches than good players.

    England and Pakistan in particular had great squads. SA had a burning will to prove themselves. And NZ changed the paradigm, to which most teams had no effective response.

    Most teams in '92 knew what they needed to do to beat Australia. Not everyone could pull it off, but all the semifinalists did. Australia did not merit a spot in the semi finals.

  • Cricinfouser on March 28, 2015, 19:43 GMT

    advantage is towards OZ but luck so far has been with the Black caps.

  • Prashant Mohan on March 28, 2015, 18:42 GMT

    Pup, pls ask George Bailey to lift the cup along after all this is his team. Go OZ

  • r.tg on March 28, 2015, 17:35 GMT

    To the contrary, the fact is the AUS have inflicted deep wounds to teams around the world. I hope Baz and Co give it to the AUS tonight in their own backyard.

  • RoJayao on March 28, 2015, 12:11 GMT

    Ahhh, a little overstated I think to say 1992 cast a shadow over Australian cricket! Rubbish in fact. Does a dark stain drench all hosts that don't win? Of course not. It is what it is. Losing the 92/93 Frank Worrell trophy after having both hands on it was a far more bitter pill to swallow, something thankfully rectified in 1995. If Australia lose tomorrow, it'll be to a team that has never won a WC, hasn't lost a game and has had to travel away to win it. There ain't no disgrace in being the beaten finalist in that scenario.

  • dummy4fb on March 28, 2015, 11:21 GMT

    Aus went to pieces in 92. Didn't know what their side was. Lost Alderman in the previous year. Dropped O'Donnell, who'd been a regular and called up Merv Hughes who'd hardly played ODIs in the previous years. Couldn't settle on a batting order. Got caught out in the opening game vs NZ, then Healy got injured, Boon ended up keeping and were scuppered by both SA, who were a surprise package, and England, who'd somehow stumbled on their best ODI team ever.

  • JJJake on March 28, 2015, 11:00 GMT

    I remember those days well. Even though we were hosting the WC it didn't seem to mean much to Australians .personally I was going for SL. They were more of an upcoming national and in form. Everyone here just thought Oz or the West IndiesIt would win it . It wasn't until Australia Was knocked out that the importance of the WC meant something. This time around its the reverse.

  • dummy4fb on March 28, 2015, 10:39 GMT

    Wishing the 5th WC win for Ausies!

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