Australia’s cricket team, led by Michael Clarke in his final one-day international match, have been lauded as deserved winners of the 2015 edition of the World Cup, with cricket media in virtually universal agreement that the best team of the tournament lifted the trophy at the MCG on Sunday night.
Clarke bowed out of ODI cricket with a handy knock of 74 as Australia were crowned world champions for a fifth time at the conclusion of the six-week long tournament – one that arrived at a far from ideal time for the co-hosts, given the difficult period they endured in the wake of Phillip Hughes’s death.
Richard Hinds wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Of course no mere piece of silverware could erase the painful memories of Phillip Hughes’ tragic and traumatising death. Yet, at the twilight of a confronting, even brutal summer, this was rich reward for Australia’s excellence, endurance and composure.”
Clarke himself was one of the most affected by his “little brother’s” death, yet still he managed to remain focused on the job in hand throughout the tournament, both as a captain and a batsman.
Peter Lalor wrote in The Australian: “A summer that began with the death of his best friend, Phillip Hughes, has been a grind for Clarke, but on the field he has been engaged, aggressive and creative as a leader. His captaincy has always been first-rate. He is blessed with an excellent cricket team but he gets the best from them.”
With Clarke calling time on his ODI career the day before the final, he came under fire for the timing of his announcement, yet victory helped to cloud collective memories; indeed the result may have altered the perception of Clarke, who despite his standing in the game has never enjoyed an entirely harmonious relationship with the Australian cricketing public.
“Clarke, for so long considered a cricketing bauble, last night was recognised for the diamond that he has always been,” wrote Patrick Smith in The Australian.
The outgoing captain was not alone in receiving praise. The quality running all the way through the Australian side was highlighted by Cricinfo’s Daniel Brettig. “Australia won the World Cup final the way they won the tournament as a whole. Fast bowling that was as aggressive as it was accurate, personified by [Mitchell] Starc, agile and alert fielding accompanied by intimidatory snarls, and batting adequate for the task thanks mainly to the undeniable class of Steven Smith. There was strength in depth, underlined by the fact that every member of the final XI produced at least one match-turning display over the course of the tournament,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Malcolm Knox wrote: “With Clarke’s retirement from the one-day game, Australia is already in transition. A near-perfect final performance capped a tournament during which Australia, aside from two hours of batting in Auckland and one in Adelaide, had revived the heights of their campaign in the West Indies in 2007. In an event dominated by batsmen, it had been Australia’s bowlers who laid the foundation.”
That was a theme echoed by Jesse Hogan in The Age, who noted: “The unrelenting discipline of the Australian pacemen – none conceded more than four runs an over – was the key to the Black Caps making only 183 after choosing to bat first on a pitch that Australia made almost double that – 9-342 – when it played on it on the first day of the tournament.”
The congratulatory mood was not limited to Australia though and more than a thought was spared for New Zealand, the beaten finalists who, despite having failed to hit the heights previously reached over the past month and a half, were widely commended for a tournament well played – and for accepting defeat in such a gracious manner.
Greg Baum’s comments in The Age were indicative of a prevailing theme: “The Kiwis were the tournament’s gallants, but this day were overwhelmed, perhaps by the occasion, certainly by Australia’s ever insistent cricket.”
Yet while McCullum was being lauded for his classiness, the same could not be said for Shane Warne, who came under fire for his post-match interviews during which the former Test spinner repeatedly probed the Australian players about how they planned to celebrate.
Warne’s line of questioning – which alluded to the prospect of lengthy alcohol-fuelled celebrations several times – prompted an outcry from, among others, Andrew Bolt, who branded Warne “a complete bogan” in a column for the Herald Sun.
Warne responded with a tweet in the early hours of the morning.
Several Australian players and coach Darren Lehmann, apparently intoxicated, spoke to Sydney’s Triple M radio on Tuesday morning to give an idea of the extent of their revelry. Steve Smith, who scored a half century in a key partnership with Clarke, said, “We’re still going, actually. The boys are having a good time. We’ve seen the sun come up in Melbourne. It’s been an amazing 24 hours.”
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was more revealing. “I’ll paint a picture for you now. I’ve got a coach who’s spooning the World Cup who can’t speak,” Haddin said. “I’ve got James Faulkner who’s got his clothes off but don’t tell everyone. And I’ve got the Marsh boys, and you know I can’t even talk about the Marsh boys because you know what trouble they have.
“I’ve got Josh Hazlewood ... he’s never been drunk in 30 years. It’s a problem. We just can’t get him drunk. He’s an absolute nightmare to drink with.”
Haddin defended his sledging of some New Zealand players when they were out, the Herald Sun reported, saying “You know what? They deserved it … I said in the team meeting: ‘I can’t stand for this anymore, we’re going at them as hard as we can.’”
The Australian team were due to appear at a public celebration in central Melbourne on Monday.
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th March 2015 02.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010