Events and people that shaped the game

No. 34

The rise of Australia

In Madras in 1986 started a march that inspired awe in everyone who came across it

November 6, 2010

Text size: A | A

The Australian team (from left: Steve Waugh, Dean Jones, David Boon, Geoff Marsh, mark Taylor and Allan Border) celebrates the first Test win, England v Australia, 1st Test, Headingley, 5th day, June 13, 1989
From Border to Waugh: a smooth transition © Getty Images
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Allan Border | Bob Simpson | Steve Waugh
Teams: Australia

1986

When Bob Simpson and Allan Border joined forces in India in 1986, Australia were bottom of the cricketing heap. By the time they departed a decade later, Australia were top of the world - and getting ready for the Waugh era.

Simpson, in his autobiography years later, was frank about the mess they inherited: "Shotgun selection had been applied… long-term planning and philosophy were urgently needed… the work ethic was non-existent… the whole training exercise [was seen] as a bit of a joke." Then suddenly, almost overnight, there was hope.

Border was the ultimate tough guy, Simpson the first great professional coach. Border gave his men heart; Simpson ideas. Technical nuts and bolts were tightened. Fielding practice assumed a never-before-seen intensity. Old pros perceived as lazy and uncommitted were replaced by dedicated juniors who cherished the baggy green: David Boon, Steve Waugh, Geoff Marsh, Merv Hughes, Dean Jones.

That first Test together, in Madras, was tied - thanks to a Border-like bullishness from Jones and Greg Matthews. The shock 1987 World Cup triumph was based on two vintage Simpsonisms: "catches win matches" and "the team that runs most singles wins". By 1989, Border had moulded a team into his own cussed, unbending image. They murdered the Poms and the course for world domination was set.

By the end of the 20th century the Australian team led by Steve Waugh contrived spectacularly to eliminate the draw from Test cricket. Like the United States, after the cold war, Australia had no opposition. Stalemates were ruled out.

Waugh's Australians hastened the game. They made huge runs shamelessly fast from the time the openers took guard, which not only made their opponents feel inept but which also gave Australia more time than any team ever before in which to regularly take 20 wickets. Australia advanced, and the world followed.

Ricky Ponting kept the legacy going as long as he had the players who imposed before they could be imposed upon. Many fans today rhapsodise about Mark Taylor's daring and diplomacy, about Steve Waugh's ruthlessness and razzmatazz. Border, in retrospect, seems dour and unimaginative, Simpson too autocratic. But it all started there.

This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print

Late highs fail to mask wretched year

2014 in review: Save for the rout of Zimbabwe, 2014 was a year of suspensions and demoralising defeats for Bangladesh

    Enough with the on-field chatter

Ian Chappell: One of these days there's going to be an ugly altercation between players on the field

Walking up the down escalator

2014 in review: Player strikes, defeats against fellow minnows, and mountains of debt for the board marked another grim year for Zimbabwe

    The first Boxing Day classic

Ashley Mallett: Nearly 150 years ago, the MCG saw the start of a much-loved tradition, with a match starring Aboriginal players

Could McCullum win the Nobel Peace Prize?

The Beige Brigade salivate over B Mac's incredible feats and sixes, and the deliciousness that is Hagley Park

News | Features Last 7 days

Watson's merry-go-round decade

In January 2005, Shane Watson made his Test debut. What does he have to show for a decade in the game?

Power to Smithy, trouble for Dhoni

Australia's new captain admirably turned things around for his side in Brisbane, leading in more departments than one

Why punish the West Indies players when the administration is to blame?

As ever, the West Indies board has taken the short-term view and removed supposedly troublesome players instead of recognising its own incompetence

Rudderless Shami proves too costly

Mohammed Shami bowls a few really good balls, but they are interspersed with far too many loose ones, an inconsistency that is unacceptable in Test cricket

Australia's 50-50 lifelines

Three Australia players made half-centuries on day one at the MCG; for each of them, the innings' meant different things

News | Features Last 7 days