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A team where the sum is greater than its parts


Ability, aggression and simplicity are crucial ingredients, writes Peter Roebuck

By no means did Ricky Ponting have a bunch of supermen at his disposal in the Caribbean. Beforehand the Australians had looked vulnerable. Defeat in their home one-day trophy had been followed by defeat in New Zealand. The Aussies seemed to be slipping.

Instead they stormed to a third successive title. By the end it was clear that Australia was not merely the strongest side but also the best run cricket community. Most of the rest could not find a slab of cheese in a dairy.

Simplicity is the cornerstone of Australian cricket. To sit at a selection table at any club is to listen to a lot of common sense and precious little hocus pocus.

Compulsory practices

Batsmen scoring runs rise. Bowlers taking wickets are promoted. Not that places are easily surrendered. All twenty senior clubs in Sydney field five sides every Saturday, all trying to improve. At the end of the season the top six sides in each grade play in finals to determine the `major premier'. Practices are compulsory. It is a game for fit, hungry young men.

Ability is recognised. Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were elevated because their footwork and strokeplay excited experts. Performance is not ignored. Michael Hussey rose more slowly because he lacked that little touch of magic. But he was not forgotten. Elsewhere players tend to be categorised at an early age.

Aggression is another factor in the Australian domination. Another nation might not have gambled on erratic leather-flingers like Shaun Tait and Brad Hogg. As far as the Australians were concerned the greater risk lay with selecting predictable trundlers and flat spinners. Tait and Hogg had the raw materials and their coaches could provide the rest.

"Ave a go year mug!", the old familiar call, could serve as the battle-cry of the antipodean game. Moreover the team comes first. The whole is greater than its parts.

Australia also plays intelligent cricket. Ponting and pals understand the inner workings of the game much as a skilled mechanic understands an engine.

Upon reaching his hundred in the final, Adam Gilchrist pointed towards a squash ball he had inserted in his batting glove. Shane Warne was always trying to improve. Glenn McGrath's final yorker was a fitting farewell from a master craftsman.

Nurturing a gift

None of these players was born great, merely with a gift that was nurtured. Australian cricketers respect the basics of the game. They don't bother much with trickery or improvisation.

Power has also been a factor. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds provided the brute force, Gilchrist the enterprise. None of them played foolish shots. None of them is a mere one-punch slugger. Luck has also played a part.

Whilst most rivals are undergoing various upheavals, the Australians can concentrate on fielding their best side. Everything is geared towards achieving the recognition relished by a remote country still finding its feet in a bemused world.

Altogether it was too much for the rest. Weaknesses have been exposed. It is a kindness disguised as a cruelty. Unless rivals respond strongly to this revelation, the Australians will win again in 2011.

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