Wonder what Kumar Dharmasena thought about it all. The only man in the middle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground who has had the experience of beating Australia in a World Cup finale umpired his first final and oversaw yet another big night where Australia crushed the opponents.
New Zealand fell down like stunned flies, baffled by the occasion, bettered by the better team on the day.
“On their day” is a wonderful sporting cliché and like many clichés, it’s true. Eleven disparate individuals suddenly morph into Pakistan on their day, New Zealand can be luminous on their day, South Africa can look like Australia on their day, India can inspire on their day, but all these teams depend on their days.
Somehow, Australia, the team many love to hate and most respect, have this fascinating ability to make most big occasions seem like it was their day. Somehow no team has really found a way to this Australianism, which incidentally is a word that should have been reduced to a mocking cliché by now but which never threatens to go out of fashion.
New Zealand certainly couldn’t. #backtheblackcaps T shirts swirled around this wondrously large arena, the fans roared when they chose to bat, there was this unmistakable sense of optimism in the air, and a feeling that they could deliver a comeuppance to the “big brother” Australia.
For a while before the toss, at least one Auckland-based radio talk show was running a show based on the question, ‘why does this World Cup mean so much to you?’ Callers were happy, exuberant and emotional. Poor sods. Little did they know what soul-crushing day lay ahead of them.
McCullum with the bat looking like a gladiator itching for a fight, Mitchell Starc, the man Shane Warne had termed as ‘soft’ not too long ago with the ball. Swing and a miss, charge and a miss and then the dream lay shattered behind McCullum. Lights lit up the stumps but the blinds had come down on New Zealand.
Some die-hard fans will say Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott staged a recovery of sorts but somehow, at the arena, there wasn’t this feeling of revival. Not many fans at the stadium believed that. There was this eerie flatness to it all. The periphery around the stadium was filling up, smokers were walking around aimlessly, merchandise shops were mobbed and then just as hope surfaced again, an itsy bitsy weeny bit of hope, Australia rallied back through James Faulkner. A bowler who has looked pretty off-key in the recent matches, suddenly found his pace and swing. Here is where you insert that cliché: Australia always find someone.
Just as Warner fell and something resembling like hope peeked through, Australia’s past killed it. On his final ODI, Michael Clarke decided to impose himself like he hasn’t done before in this tournament, driving, cutting and shoving New Zealand out of the way.
And yet, as much as this triumph might have seemed like a formality, a pre-destined event, yet another triumph for a juggernaut, but this has been a strange Australian summer.
It started with a death and a national mourning and has now ended with sporting success. Two years ago, even Australian cricket wasn’t in great health.
A disaster of a Champions Trophy in 2013, the fiasco of home-work gate, allegations of rift in the team, an unpopular skipper and then came Darren Lehmann.
Fun returned, and by the look of things on Sunday night, so has Australianism. Doesn’t it ever get boring as a nation to keep watching your team winning, though? May be not, for if it did and it didn’t mean much to them, this team won’t be keep winning like this.
One & Only
Darren Lehmann is the only man to have won the World Cup both as a player and coach. Lehmann scored the winning runs in at Lord’s in 1999. In 2003, he took the winning catch at Wanderers in Johannesburg. Twelve years later, he mentored Australia as they reclaimed the crown they had surrendered in 2011. Lehmann took over from Mickey Arthur after the Champions Trophy in England in 2013. He helped the team win back the Ashes in 2014.
Runs scored by Brendon McCullum in this match, the lowest by any captain in a WC final. No other captain has scored a duck in a WC final, with the previous lowest being Clive Lloyd’s 8 in the 1983.