Australia still the besthttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/australia-still-the-best/

Australia still the best

With the score 6/2 in a tricky chase,Australia’s moment of truth had arrived. The team,struggling with self-doubt since several of their stars...

With the score 6/2 in a tricky chase,Australia’s moment of truth had arrived. The team,struggling with self-doubt since several of their stars retired last season,were expected to buckle under pressure. But Shane Watson and Cameron White proved that the old Aussie trait of firing at crunch time hadn’t been forgotten entirely.

Watson followed his match-winning ton in the semi-final with another century knock,sparking off comparisons (at least temporarily) with Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist,hailed as a worthy successor to those who saved their best for the worst situations.

And skipper Ricky Ponting was at peace after the realisation that there will continue to be men around him who can be trusted when the chips are down,especially on days when significant silverware is at stake; happy that the Aussie assembly line of champions is still rolling out men with steel in their nerves.

The big picture

More than anything,the Champions Trophy victory on Monday night gave Australia reassurance when they needed it most. On the eve of the title clash,Ponting hadn’t been too keen to look at the bigger picture. He had appreciated the role played by the juniors in his side in ensuring the team had not lost on the road to final,but he had seemed unsure about the ability of his young team to deliver the knock-out punch.

“As I said to Cameron White and Shane Watson,the situation doesn’t get much harder than what it was for them tonight. We lost two early wickets in chase of a low score and we had two relatively young guys at the wicket. To see these young guys stand up and get us across the line has been very satisfying. That has always been the feature of the Australian teams,if the bigger guys don’t perform we always have some of the younger guys who stand up and perform,” a beaming Ponting said after the final.

Sitting next to his skipper,Watson was almost choked with emotion when he spoke about the several ups and down in his injury-ridden career,and his individual triumph over anxiety on big-match days.

The ‘real’ Watson

“In the semi-finals of the World Cup in South Africa,I was pumped up to do well but I didn’t. The thing that I have learnt through the opportunities I have had playing bigger games is that it is another game of cricket. You have to be in a good place mentally,” he said.

Ponting agreed that the last few months had seen the real Watson stand up. “The way Watson has played his cricket in the last couple of months,we are starting to see the real Shane Watson. He is getting his opportunity and now is back at peak fitness.

“With the ball and at the top of the order with the bat,he has shown everybody how good a cricketer he can be. The way he bowled against England was terrific and to come out and make that 130 was terrific,” said Ponting.

IPL factor

Watson acknowledged that his stint with the IPL during the first season has been responsible for his turnaround,and did not forget to thank his Rajasthan Royals skipper Shane Warne. “I was out of the Australian team because of injury before I played for Rajasthan. The time I spent with Shane was important. It gave me confidence,and my show there saw me get an quick recall to the Aussie side,” he said.

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For both Watson and the new Australian team,it seems the Champions Trophy was a journey of self discovery.