The dominant manner in which Australia performed in the final on Sunday makes them deserved champions for a fifth time. They have played many finals before and it showed how they performed in front of a packed MCG. As such, I also feel that New Zealand’s inexperience of such situations was a contributing factor too. It was only the first time for them in a World Cup final, and it showed.
I am a great fan of Brendon McCullum. It is joyful to watch him bat when he is in full flow. But sometimes you need to go back to the drawing board and re-assess your game plan as per the need of the team and the situation. It was just awful in the way he was swishing at the three balls he faced, and not connecting at all.
The match was for 50 overs a side, and it was a big final. You need to have a plan A, and then a plan B in such situations. But it did not reflect in the manner in which McCullum batted. Either he was too overawed by the situation, or, more likely, he was just determined to bat in the same manner that he has batted throughout this tournament. And so he started attacking from the first ball he faced, regardless of who was bowling to him, without respecting the bowler enough.
For their part, Mitchell Starc and the rest of the Australian bowling attack were just magnificent. I was very impressed with how they attacked from ball one of the match, and how often they hit the stumps. They had a plan in mind and they executed it to perfection. People might say it was a one-sided match, but only because Australia did what they planned to do. You have to give due credit to them for their aggression and penetration in their bowling.
Defending 183 runs is nearly impossible these days. New Zealand’s only chance was in the partnership put up by Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor. They were doing very well to rescue the situation after a top-order collapse, and if they had managed to put 250 runs on the board, maybe it could have been a close finish. But quick wickets meant the pressure was on their big-hitters to save the day. Someone like Corey Anderson hasn’t lit up the World Cup despite his huge reputation. It was a great opportunity for him to show his true worth. But he was simply rolled over by the Australian onslaught, and that has to be lauded.
All in all though, it has been a great tournament to watch and remember. On an individual level, Martin Guptill and Chris Gayle stood out for me, for scoring ODI double hundreds, the first ones in an ICC Cricket World Cup. However it does bring into the spotlight the balance between bat and ball, and the administrators should sit down and have a rethink especially if there are bigger bats and smaller boundaries. For most parts of the tournament, barring the likes of Starc or Trent Boult, the bowlers did not come to grip with these new rules.
Also, Michael Clarke was one of the better captains of this tournament for me, if not the best. His participation was under some cloud, and there were questions about whether he should be considered for the Australian squad or not. But the way he has led in this World Cup was simply marvellous.
From a team point of view, South Africa’s performance in their semi-final against New Zealand was wonderful. They gave it everything they had. I felt sorry for AB de Villiers. He is a magnificent cricketer. There were tears shed by Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn as well, and it just goes to show how passionate they are about playing for their country, and trying to win the ICC Cricket World Cup. Nobody should see them as a soft target.
In the end, I would like to re-iterate that it was a great tournament, wherein the two best teams played the final, and the best team won eventually. If there is a negative, maybe it was about the length of the tournament. People who love the game, as per my observation, do not understand why an ODI World Cup has to be so long. The scheduling was not correct either. Some teams got too much of a gap between matches and others did not. It doesn’t help with momentum in a tournament like this, which is very important from a performance point of view. Maybe this is something for the organizers to ponder over, going ahead.
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