Australia in a final: Men at work, business as usual
There is an aphorism in football that holds true across regions, decades, events, big-game nights: 22 men go out to play and the Germans win. Here's the cricket version: 22 men go to out to play a World Cup final and the Australians win.
On a resplendent night in the biggest ground in world cricket, 93,013 people and a flock of curious seagulls, under a black-inked sky, watched Australia win their Penta, their fifth World Cup. They have made seven finals in 11 World Cups. Never mind football, which has had a far longer World Cup history, not even field hockey - whose World Cup started in 1971 - has one country that has been a part of their event's grandest night so often across three decades.
The 2015 World Cup final game ended at 9:02pm, more than an hour before the scheduled close, New Zealand done and dusted in 33.1 overs on the back of a total that would have been hard to defend in Twenty20. Indian fans had a sentimental laugh over 183 but that was about it. Yes, New Zealand's bowling had been formidable and yes, a month ago, they had got Australia out at Eden Park for way less.
Australia at a World Cup final, however, are completely different beasts. Once they get there - and this is a post-1999 brand of Australian ODI cricketer - some A-game gene springs to life in their DNA. In their last four World Cup finals - 1999, 2003, 2007 and now this - Australia enter the game and shut the door on their opposition. No matter how they get to the big game - whether by the skin of their teeth or knocking the rivals out - on finals day, they reach into their kit bags and pull on their you-can't-mess-with-us game face. It overrides conditions, weather, wickets, opposition: they have won World Cups in Asia, England, South Africa and the West Indies. And now at home.
Tonight, New Zealand were the misty-eyed favourites for this final - an amenable, much-liked team whose cricket contained steel, discipline, daring without any ugly edges. They had a bowling attack of venom and discipline, a quality spinner and a clutch of watchable batsmen. So what, said Australia. Ours have venom, discipline and pace and our spinner takes wickets, we bat down to eight and our No. 9 is not half-bad. Think you can do an Eden Park again? Think you can handle us in a World Cup final? At our home? Dream on.
The last final was also won by the home team but in very different circumstances; Wankhede 2011 was a wall of sound, building, building and then erupting in a paroxysm of what could only be called overjoy. There was more than one lap of honour, including one featuring Tendulkar on his team-mates' shoulders, as fireworks went off for what seemed like forever. The incessant racket of cars tooting horns on the road around the Wankhede Stadium could be heard inside the stadium. The police tried, unsuccessfully, to chase spectators who were climbing over the barricades and into the ground, running wildly around the field, only to climb over the barricades onto the other side and escape. Others were happy to leap over barriers and dive onto the field in ecstasy like celebrating footballers. It was chaotic, rambunctious, disorderly. Like the Indian campaign had been.
MCG 2015 had twice the number of people and an ebb and flow of volume and emotion. As Steven Smith and Shane Watson wolfed down the remaining runs required, rock music began to play over the speaker system and the crowd began singing the chorus of Jimmy Barnes' Working Class Man at top volume. The totally admirable Smith pirouetted about with joy, after producing a pull that would have made VVS Laxman proud, and leapt into Watson's arms to a waving, clapping mass of Australian supporters. The sight screen threw out regular flames, the players were drowned in a profusion of golden glitter (had New Zealand won, would the glitter have been black? Or beige?). The crowd listened to the speeches and the ceremonies in respectful silence, cheering at appropriate moments, close to 70,000 waiting to partake in the lap of honour.
When it was over, the crowd went home walking towards the car parks or the tram and train stops, happy, chatty, satisfied. Within an hour of the celebrations ending, the drop-in pitch was being rolled up and readied to be taken away. Footy season is due to begin in four days. The ground was being put back to what it was - minus the pitch of course - before the first ball was bowled. Like Australia at a World Cup final. Who arrived with a sense of purpose and mission, cleaned up the opposition and performed like they always knew what they were meant to be: world champions.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo