ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
World Cup 2011
Australia's loss heralds the end of an era
Ricky Ponting doesn't think Australia bowing out of the World Cup marks the end of an era, but it's impossible to come to any other conclusion
March 25, 2011
Ricky Ponting doesn't think Australia bowing out of the World Cup marks the end of an era, but it's impossible to come to any other conclusion. For more than a decade, Australia have owned all sorts of silverware, Cricket Australia's headquarters in Melbourne more a trophy cabinet than an office. Now, the last of those major prizes is finding a new home after 12 years in Australian hands.
Over the past six months, Ponting's men have lost the Ashes and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, or to be more accurate, they have failed to regain them. Those crowns were already gone. They are clinging on to the Champions Trophy, but there's every chance the ICC will soon scrap that event entirely. In any case, it is a trinket compared to the World Cup.
Losing the World Cup for the first time since 1996 will hurt tremendously, but winning three in a row should be celebrated. No country has ever matched that feat in the FIFA World Cup. Since Steve Waugh's men began the dynasty in 1999, the football title has changed hands four times: from France to Brazil, then Italy and now Spain. Winning one world tournament is exceedingly difficult, let alone three in succession.
That is little consolation to this 2011 Australian squad, roughly half of whom didn't experience any of those earlier successes. Times change, and to be beaten by an India side that was better than Australia is no disgrace. Ponting's team entered the tournament with the No.1 ODI ranking - for now, they still hold that position - but were far from being the favourites.
There were factors beyond their control that contributed to their lack of success. Their two frontline spinners, Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty, were unavailable due to injuries, as were fast bowlers like Clint McKay and Ryan Harris, who could have added variety. Two weeks in the middle of the tournament without a match, when their clash with Sri Lanka was washed out, didn't help either.
But ultimately, Australia just weren't good enough. Four teams will reach the semi-finals, and will deserve to be there. Australia did not play well enough to join them. That is not to say that the powers that be should blindly accept that nothing can be done. Moving on and making hard decisions will allow regrowth and rejuvenation.
The natural time for change is at the end of an unsuccessful World Cup cycle, on the heels of a disappointing Ashes cycle. As Ian Chappell told ESPNcricinfo in his analysis after the loss to India, Australia must look to a new captain to guide a new team. They have a chance to begin that process with next month's one-day tour of Bangladesh.
The selectors will be loath to make any major changes, including to the leadership, before the review of Australia's on-field performance is completed around August. After the Ashes debacle, they have their own jobs to worry about without rocking the boat further. Why pre-empt the review, they will ask. But it would be wise to use the Bangladesh trip to look at some new faces, men who might become key players for Australia over the next few years.
There are no shortage of options - Aaron Finch, Daniel Christian, Steve O'Keefe, Luke Butterworth, James Pattinson, James Faulkner, to name but a few. And by the next World Cup, Michael Clarke will be the likely captain, so if the selectors are brave enough, it wouldn't hurt to give him the one-day leadership now and allow him four years to mould a side.
Veterans like Brett Lee, who was impressive at the World Cup but wants to go on and aim for 400 ODI wickets, should consider what is best for the team. Can they contribute to the next era of Australian one-day cricket? And if not, is it right to take up a place that could go to a younger man?
"It's a bit premature to say it was the end of an era for Australian cricket, it was a pretty good game tonight," Ponting said after the loss in Ahmedabad. "I didn't think we were far away from winning a game against a very good Indian team on their home soil. I thought we were very competitive tonight, we've lost our last two games in the World Cup, I'm disappointed with that. I thought we were a better team than we probably showed in the last few games. I think it's a bit too early to say it's the end of an era."
But if not now, when?
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