In T20 World Cup win, Australia is seeking to revive the fortunes of a rugged outfit
Australia’s reiteration of its cricketing prowess was the overwhelming theme of the latest ICC Twenty20 World Cup. After the domination of the West Indies waned in the 1990s, it was Australia that claimed top dollar in the willow game before England, India and New Zealand at varying points highlighted their superiority. To make it worse, the 2018 ball tampering controversy sullied Australia’s reputation; and, at home, twice it lost Test series to India. Its recent performances were middling but when frenetic cricket became intrinsic to the United Arab Emirates, which first hosted the remainder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and then conducted the T20 World Cup on behalf of original host India, it was Australia that had the last laugh. Aaron Finch’s men won the championship on Sunday after defeating New Zealand in the final and it revealed a welcome return to form and supremacy of a rugged outfit seeking a turnaround in its fortunes. David Warner’s runs, Mitchell Marsh’s chutzpah, Matthew Wade’s pyrotechnics especially in the semi-final against Pakistan, and Adam Zampa’s guile all combined to propel Australia to the pinnacle in the T20 format. But New Zealand was not far behind; runner-up in the 2019 World Cup, this year’s ICC World Test Championship winner and now emerging second in the T20 World Cup, Kane Williamson’s men showed that they are the most consistent unit across formats.
The Trans-Tasman summit clash may not have been a last-over humdinger but it had its soaring moments and Williamson’s 48-ball 85 was a remarkable innings, high on urgency but one that did not sacrifice its innate batting aesthetics. It was much akin to Mahela Jayawardene’s unbeaten 103 against India in the 2011 World Cup final at Mumbai. However, just like Jayawardene’s effort, Williamson’s knock also got shrouded in defeat. If Australia and New Zealand proved to be the last two teams standing, credit is also due to Pakistan. Often deemed a maverick squad that either soars or crash-lands, Babar Azam’s men prospered with batter Fakhar Zaman and left-arm speedster Shaheen Afridi leading the revival. On the flip-side, the exit of defending champion West Indies and India’s shocking ouster, reiterated sport’s unpredictability. It was the end of an era for the West Indies with some of its T20 stars like Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle walking into the sunset while India’s meltdowns against Pakistan and New Zealand jinxed its campaign. Ever since it landed in England on June 3, India has been on the road and with the IPL being part of the schedule, fatigue was evident within the ranks. But this edition was not just about winners and losers, but also about Afghanistan turning up despite the turmoil back home and seeking relief through cricket.