There is a saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. We see reflections of this somewhat universal truth to quite a noticeable extent in all competitive sport. Over the past years we have seen many individuals who have established themselves as champion ambassadors of this gratifying axiom. But when we come to think of teams with such acclaim, perhaps there is none other who press their cases more than the Australian Cricket Team.
No matter how battered and bruised they might seem in the build-up to an ICC event, you can bank on them to bring their A game when it matters the most. Like The Undertaker sitting up from his casket just when everyone ponder him to be ‘dead’, the Aussies have a knack for hitting the supercharge button just when the critics start to draw a line through their names.
From getting whitewashed by New Zealand just before the 2007 world cup to winning it unbeaten, losing 5 of their 7 ODI series heading into the 2019 world cup (which included a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of England in England) to making the semis – the fans were desperately praying for a similar turn of events on the road to this year’s WT20.
And why wouldn’t they? The team had some of the most barren runs in their T20 history in the build up to this year’s ICC Men’s WT20. Losing to 4-1 to both West Indies and Bangladesh saw them drop to a record low in the ICC Men’s T20 rankings while their win/loss ratio for the year was right there at the bottom of the table.
It was like everything that could go wrong went wrong for Australia. But luckily they were no team to push the panic button as evidenced by their propulsion into the final, that too by thrashing the tournament’s best team -Pakistan in a semi final for the ages.
As the WT20 came knocking at the door they had all their guns ready and raring to go albeit with some worry about form. They got through their first hurdle against South Africa with a convincing victory that was sure to have boosted the team morale. But the form of David Warner, who they badly needed to get back to business in order for them to have a genuine shot at silverware, was still a big question mark hovering like a dark cloud above their heads.
Luckily that cloud cleared soon as the little dynamite found his groove against Sri Lanka and backed it up with commanding performances against the West Indies and Pakistan. Australia all of a sudden started to look like a team to beat and indeed a strong contender for the last four, a position that seemed a tad too out of their reach at the start of the tournament.
They did get drubbed by England after two successive victories in the group stages. But boy were they quick to pick themselves up quick and stage a surging comeback, demolishing Bangladesh and West Indies en route to a semi final berth.
The ability to shrug off recent woeful outings from their minds and shun all outside noise whilst backing themselves for a big tournament speaks volumes of their grit and temperament. Skipper Aaron Finch was forced to go under the knife in an attempt to fix a damaged cartilage in his right knee, throwing him into a race against time to be fit for the mega event. By the time he was back, many questioned his selection due to lack of match practice under his belt. Star batsman David Warner getting dropped by his IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad and getting no game time to regain his form didn’t help either. Steve Smith was not getting enough match practice either. Furthermore a hamstring injury to all-rounder Marcus Stoinis during the IPL had coach Justin Langer in all sorts of trouble.
But nonetheless the he decided to stick to his core group of players without hankering after questions of form and match readiness. Because irrespective of everything else, one thing JL could bet his life on was the intent of the players which they were so full of. And that brimming intent gave way to application as demonstrated by Matthew Wade’s blitzkrieg of an innings in the semi final.
The barnstorming semi final win against Pakistan all but affirmed fearless aggression coupled with backing experienced players as the credo that can clinch Australia the only ICC Trophy missing from their already illustrious cabinet. Now the question remains – can the elixir they cooked to resurrect themselves be enough to give themselves one last push to securing the ultimate prize or will it wear off too early? Only time can tell.