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June 22, 1999


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'Sorry, Steve, I owe you one!'

Dean Jones

In my last article, I believed the Aussies were gone. Their batting was poor, they were bowling all over the shop, dropping catches everywhere. Steve Waugh was not making a run and morale was down. Can you believe what they have done? I can't!

The Aussies started off poorly, and after their defeat by Pakistan at Headingley, the Australian hierarchy questioned every facet of their game. Steve Waugh and coach Geoff Marsh regrouped. The first people they looked at were themselves. Waugh's form has been poor. He dug deep, as he often does. I have no doubt that he looked in the mirror and questioned his own value to the team, and how could he change his poor form. If he could not improve his own form, then how could he change the form of others?

Steve's 120 not out against South Africa was the best one-day innings ever made by an Australian. It had everything: aggression, defence, great concentration and daring running between the wickets. I felt I was watching a 22-year-old Steve Waugh. No fear in his shot selection, just an old campaigner backing himself.

Now the captain was showing the way and the rest of the senior players started to stand up. McGrath started to show form, particularly in a great spell of 5/13 against the Windies; Mark Waugh made a great ton against Zimbabwe; Ponting was making consistent thirties, and along came Warne.

Shane Warne is a freak. Commeth the hour, commeth the man. There has been so much pressure on him and all he needed was a big game to get his competitive juices flowing. The juggernaut arrived at the perfect time, for all Australians and the world to see.

Warne bowled beautifully in both the semi-final and the final, taking four wickets in both games. If any Indians had a query about him, hopefully they won't ask now. When he is firing, look out. It seems to me that the rest of the team lifts a peg in the field. And, when the Aussies are good in the field, the opposition is dead!

Before the final, I was dreadfully worried. The Pakistanis were playing brilliantly and had an extra day off to prepare. In comparison, the Australians had two very hard matches and came into the final by winning six matches in a row. Percentages say you can't win seven in a row, but the Australians had other ideas.

If any of the young Pakistanis want to learn anything about cricket, then they should have a very close look at the Australians' performance right through the World Cup. When a cricketer starts to back himself, results tend to look after themselves. Any player worth his salt should watch the 1999 final. He will learn that the reason Australia won was not through daring one-day cricket, but through stupid, blatant and careless mistakes. The Pakistanis were just overwhelmed in such an auspicious occasion. They were never allowed to settle down, mainly due to some brilliant catching by Mark and Steve Waugh, coupled with the new Shane Warne.

So, what can the Australians get out of their second World Cup win? Firstly, the television ratings were unbelievable and the whole nation is celebrating. Hopefully young boys and girls would have watched the World Cup and inspired them to play cricket for their country. But a huge problem looms for Australian cricket: Australia have not unleashed any youngsters in their team and the team's future has a question over it. The Waugh twins are now 34 years old; so is Moody, and now Shane Warne is contemplating retirement. He seems to have had enough from constant press speculation of alleged match fixing. Simply, he has had a gutful.

The Australian cricket players seem to have been around for years. It would seem unlikely that we will see the Waughs again; nor will we see Moody or Reiffel or Fleming. It will be interesting to see how the Australian selectors cope with this problem.

On the other hand, the Pakistanis, Indians and the South Africans have youth and potential to win the next World Cup in 2003. Names such as Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Mahmood, Saqlain, Afridi, Razzaq, Shoaib, Klusener, Kallis and Cullinan seem certainties for the next World Cup showdown in South Africa in 2003.

But the main thing I learnt from this World Cup was that if you have a cricket team that is honest in its analysis of its own performance, you will perform consistently. It takes some old fashion guts and discipline to win these tournaments.

Reading between the lines, I believe the Australians realised their careers were on the line and they had to do something about it. Well, they came out swinging punches and blew every team out of the water, except for South Africa.

Since I have retired from International cricket in 1995, I believe the game has improved from eight per cent to 10 per cent. The game is so good now I can't wait for the next World Cup.

Once again, I will apologise to Steve Waugh. I admit I was wrong, and I don't mind you telling me to the day I die.

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