Grit. Determination. Never-say-die attitude. These are just some of the words that are associated with Australian sports teams, and rightly so.
Australian sports teams and athletes will not give you an inch, will fight till there is hope, and in the process, gain respect and fan following from across the world, one of those fans being me.
Being Indian, the most exposure to Australian sport has been through cricket, and I have long been an admirer of their cricket team. So how good did it feel to see them whitewash the hapless English on home soil? Bloody brilliant, as they so often say Down Under.
The Australian team from the late 1990s to the late 2000s dominated world cricket like no other, well apart from the West Indies a couple of decades before that.
They had everything, a solid opening pair, an accomplished middle-order, the best fast bowler and the best spinner at the time, and of course a brilliant maverick wicket-keeper in Adam Gilchrist. Yes, they were arrogant, and why not? They knew they were the best and intended to let everyone else know that as well. Nothing wrong in that, in my opinion.
Yet, in recent years, things changed. First it was the trio of Warne, McGrath and Langer who bid goodbye to cricket, ripping apart their bowling attack. Then, a year later, Gilchrist, who had forever changed the role of a wicket-keeper. As Hayden left the following year, things were already on a decline.
Ponting found the going too tough to handle as he suddenly found himself having to manage a group of youngsters, a far cry from the established bunch he had to deal with earlier. Loss after loss followed as the rest of the cricketing world rubbed their hands in glee at the fall of the ‘Aussie Empire’.
Ponting first resigned as captain, and then left, joined a short while later by Hussey. Huge series losses in India and England followed along with a dismal performance in the Champions Trophy. Would this Aussie team ever be any good again?
You bet they would. Under an inspired Michael Clarke and the tutelage of Darren Lehmann, this Australian team is back and a force to be reckoned with. Clarke finds himself in a similar situation to Allan Border, nearly three decades ago.
In the mid 1980s, Australian cricket was wilting. The Chappells had all gone, along with them Lillee, Thompson and Marsh. Border suddenly found himself the best player in his side by a country mile, and set about slowly rebuilding the side. In much the same way, Clarke has had to do the same.
The runs were coming for the skipper, who scored four double-hundreds in 2012, but the results just weren’t. Nevertheless, Clarke has withstood the barrage and the chopping and changing, quietly confident that his team would come good again. Keeping the faith in the notoriously wayward Mitchell Johnson, Clarke also backed Brad Haddin, who at the age of 36, has been under some serious scrutiny over the past couple of years.
The two repaid that faith this series, being instrumental in their side’s 5-0 whitewash over the English team. The confidence is now back and things can only go up from here. Players who had never known what it was like to win a Test series have now been part of a side that has won 5-0. South Africa away next? Cannot. Wait.
Cricket needed Australia back too. It just isn’t the same without a strong Australian team. Their legacy is far too rich for it to be ruined so soon. People may not like them, but everyone knows we need them. The confidence is back, the arrogance will be back soon enough.
Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!