Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Aussie World Cup Winners’ XI

The culmination of any sporting event brings to focus the players that made a difference. This year’s Cricket World Cup ended on a hat trick of consecutive Cup wins for the Australia, and with the 1987 triumph the men from Down Under have won four World Cups out of the nine held so far.

Great players have donned national colours for this Australian one-day side, and before the current side left for this year’s World Cup in the West Indies, an All-time Aussie One Day International (ODI) XI was announced. In this analysis, we shall pick an Aussie XI as well, but an All-time Aussie World Cup Winners XI. The selection process is simple; we shall pick the best Australian players to have successfully represented their country at a World Cup.

Here’s the eleven that made the cut:
1. Adam Gilchrist
Ball in glove or not, ‘Gilly’ is perhaps the easiest choice to make in any all-time XI. In 31 World Cup matches, Gilchrist has scored 1085 runs, averaging 36.16, and scoring at marginally less than a run-a-ball. His blistering 149 in this year’s final at the Kensington Oval seemed to have been made on a different wicket to the rest, as he teed off on a scoring spree while the rest of the Aussie batsmen – in prime form too- struggled to force the pace.

2. Matthew Hayden
Matthew Hayden’s batting exploits at the recently concluded World Cup bagged him the opener’s place alongside Gilchrist, ahead of the elegant Mark Waugh. Waugh’s career average of 39.95 at a strike rate of 76.90 is impressive, but pales in comparison to Hayden’s average of 43.99 at a strike rate of 78.53. Although Waugh’s World Cup batting average of 52.84 is better than Hayden’s 51.94, it has been scored at a slower pace, thanks to the Hayden’s powerful hitting – a result of his strong upper body.

3. Ricky Ponting
The skipper of this side will come in at No.3. Ponting and Clive Lloyd are the only two captains to have won two World Cups, but Ponting is one-up over Lloyd – he’s won three as a player. Ponting is the only Aussie batsman to have scored over 10,000 runs in ODIs, with 22 centuries. His 140 not out in the World Cup Final against India in 2003 is one innings to remember.

4. Dean Jones
Jones is the only player in this side from the 1987 Australian World Cup winning side. He averages over 44 in ODIs, a phenomenal record when compared to his contemporaries. Although his 6068 runs have come at a slow strike rate of 72.56, the gritty middle-order bat was still considered a better bet than Damien Martyn.

5. Michael Clarke
At the 2007 World Cup, ‘Pug’ – as Clarke is known – played with a touch of finesse and consistency, and with Hayden and Ponting formed a solid top-order that hardly left any work for the rest of the line-up. He averaged 87.20 in the 11 matches he played at the 2007 World Cup, nearly double his average of 45.60 in 112 ODIs. Along with the batting, Clarke is also a useful left-arm slow bowler, and he would be one of the better fielders in this excellent fielding side.

6. Michael Bevan
The ‘World’s best finisher’ tag still belongs to this southpaw. His penchant for never getting out is reflected in his average of 53.58, only to be perhaps outdone by a fellow southpaw and namesake Michael Hussey in recent years. His quick running between the wickets will come useful in the end-overs, and his cool head has guided the Aussies to a win from many a difficult situation. Bevan’s left-arm chinamans will also add variety to the bowling attack.

7. Andrew Symonds
A giant on the field, Andrew Symonds has an astounding batting average of 103 in World Cup matches, his 515 runs coming at a strike rate of 93.29. An uncertainty for the 2003 World Cup, the man was picked on captain Ricky Ponting’s behest. Symonds obliged his skipper by scoring an unbeaten 143 after Pakistan had the Aussies tottering at 86-4. Although an injury seemed to have dashed his World Cup hopes this year, Symonds made a remarkable recovery and played the tournament after missing the first two matches. Symonds can also bowl off-spin or medium pace and his strong arms and athletic prowess make him one of the best outfielders in the game.

8. Shane Warne
Although leg-spinner Shane Warne has not played an ODI after the infamous ‘Mommy gave me a pill’ episode that ruled him out of the 2003 World Cup, many felt he should have been part of the 2007 campaign. Warne retired from Test cricket following the Ashes, perhaps as the best spinner that the game has produced. Warne walks into this side ahead of the man who replaced him – left-arm chinaman bowler Brad Hogg. Hogg’s performances have ensured Australia did not miss Warne, picking up 34 wickets at an average of 19.23 in 21 World Cup games. Warne’s 32 wickets in 17 matches come at 19.50 apiece, at an economy rate of 3.83 runs conceded per over. However, the Man-of-the-Match four-fors in the semi-finals and finals of the 1999 World Cup clinched the specialist spinner’s spot for the ‘Wizard.’

9. Brett Lee
The ‘Express’ bowler in this side, Brett Lee averaged a wicket nearly every 23rd ball he bowled at the 2003 World Cup. Unfortunately, an injury ruled him out of this year’s World Cup, where the tearaway Shaun Tait replaced him with some success. Lee is no slouch with the bat either and both he and Warne could chip in with a few runs if needed.

10. Nathan Bracken
The golden locks and gentle run-up make him appear to be easy pickings, but left-arm medium-pacer Nathan Bracken has a few tricks up his sleeve. He swings the new ball with good effect and bowls incisive cutters with the older one. Also entrusted with the ball during the death overs in the last World Cup, Bracken picked up 16 wickets with an average of 16.12, conceding 3.6 runs every over. His overall ODI record is not bad either, giving away 21.36 runs for the 112 wickets he has taken.

11. Glenn McGrath
“Mr. Line and Length’ could not have scripted a better finish to his cricketing career. McGrath finished the 2007 World Cup as the most successful bowler in World Cup history, and as the ‘Player of the Tournament.’ Glenn McGrath hates giving away anything to the batsmen, and his career ODI economy rate is an outstanding 3.87. McGrath’s 71 victims in 39 matches at the World Cup have been done in by his nagging accuracy and persistence. The consistent performer has won the coveted Cup three times as a player along with compatriots Gilchrist and Ponting. He also has a reputation for targeting the key batsmen in the opposition, and with a good measure of success that is.

The Aussie World Cup Winners Squad:
The XI: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (wicket-keeper), Matthew Hayden, Dean Jones, Michael Clarke, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath.
Stand-bys: Mark Waugh, Jason Gillespie, Brad Hogg, Damien Martyn.
Coach: John Buchanan.

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