Evolving Australia prove their depth
Last time Australia visited the Caribbean they went home undefeated and with a World Cup in their possession. The stakes were considerably lower on this trip but it was an important step in the development of a side that has lost several key members of the World Cup-winning squad.
Of the team that triumphed in the dark in Barbados last April, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Brad Hogg have retired, Matthew Hayden missed this entire tour with an injury, Ricky Ponting flew home with a wrist problem and Shaun Tait is slowly coming back to cricket after a self-imposed break.
It meant opportunities galore for a bunch of state players who over the past few seasons have been green with envy as the Australia team remained as impenetrable as Shivnarine Chanderpaul's defences. A 5-0 series whitewash was proof that the fringe men have learned from watching their predecessors.
A 169-run thrashing of West Indies in the final game ensured Australia will leave the Caribbean on a high, and none of the players will be as ecstatic as the Man of the Match Luke Ronchi. He destroyed West Indies with 64 from 28 deliveries when the acting captain Michael Clarke promoted him to No. 3 and he slammed six sixes over the tiny boundaries at Warner Park.
"It's a lot like the WACA - short straight," Ronchi said after the game. "It's the easiest way to go. It's the way I play cricket at home and that was the job I was given today, to go out and make the most of the Powerplays and luckily enough it came off."
Ronchi was largely responsible for West Indies' third Powerplay costing 63 runs - even more amazing considering Dwayne Bravo kept one of the five overs to one run. If Australia thought Ronchi's 22-ball half-century was impressive, the 19-ball effort from David Hussey in the dying overs was the icing on the cake and Clarke was full of praise for both men.
"We took a little bit of a gamble [promoting Ronchi to No. 3] but Luke's a fantastic cricketer, he's scored a lot of runs back home and we were very confident he would do the job today," Clarke said. "It's great for Australian cricket, we have a lot of depth back at home and as you've seen on this tour our one-day team is still very strong."
There were also promising performances from the new opener Shaun Marsh and his partner Shane Watson, who was not in the original squad but finished as Player of the Series after scoring 206 runs at 41.20 and collecting six wickets. Apart from a half-century from Shawn Findlay and some tight bowling from Nikita Miller, the signs were not as encouraging for West Indies.
After a series in which their only strong effort resulted in a one-run loss, the captain Chris Gayle knows they have a long way to go to threaten the world's top sides. "We still need to work on our cricket and take a leaf from [Australia's] book as well," Gayle said. "We need to work on the mental aspect to our game as well and physically in the field and so on."