This is a three part article looking at history, current rankings, and what lies ahead.
Part 1 – Australia’s undefeated run in 2003 and 2007 World Cups
I was appointed as Head Coach of the Australian Cricket team in October 1999, soon after Australia’s triumph at Lords in 1999.
March 23rd , 2003 saw Australia defeat India at Johannesburg in the final of the World Cup and four years later in Barbados, April 28th 2007, Australia was again victorious, this time beating Sri Lanka for the World Cup title.
I was coach on both occasions, retiring as Head Coach of Australia immediately after the win in the West Indies, having been Australian team Head Coach for almost 8 years at that time.
Apart from each campaign delivering a World Cup, one of the amazing statistics that is overlooked is that the Australian team was undefeated in 2003 and 2007 – a total of 21 games !
There were many factors which contributed to this record such as –
- The preparation we put into a World Cup well before arriving. For instance in 2003, we had chosen Potchefstroom as our setup base from our previous tours to South Africa; while in 2007, we used the pretty little island of St Vincent’s as our setup base. I remember taking the whole squad to the old fort and asking the group what does a fort do? The answer is that fort protect what and whom you value, and keeps out those people and influencers that can destroy what is contained within. In St Vincent’s, we finished building our fortress for the World Cup.
- The building had been taking place for some time, and for example, we rested Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist from the New Zealand tour to freshen them up for the World Cup. We took Shane Watson to New Zealand even though he was just returning from injury. We selected Andrew Symonds who had badly injured his shoulder in our Commonwealth Bank home series believing faithfully in the medical advice, the determination of Andrew and his importance to the team – a long cry from 4 years before where Andrew was the last man picked in the squad. And our statistical detail on all our opposition was exceptional. I had sensed for a few years and on certain occasions, our bowling group were unable to restrict opposition teams which had laid strong foundations at the top of the order. I believed the bowling group had not been doing the meticulous planning that was necessary. I assigned our analyst and bowling coach, Richard McInnes to the task. Our first real test was against South Africa in St Kitts where we had amassed 6/377 on the back of a Hayden 100 and 90’s from Ponting and Clark. But at 0/160, South Africa were steaming towards our total, till a piece of Watson magic from a boundary throw run out of DE Villiers, Smith cramped up and was out to Hogg soon after, let the bowlers run rampant with Bracken, Tait, McGrath, Hogg and Watson despatching the Proteas for 294. From this point onwards, the bowling group dominated the competition with McGrath being the leading wicket-taker of the tournament while Hayden scored the most runs.
- We always planned on factors outside our control which could disrupt or at least distract us from the job at hand which was simply playing the next game – for example, Shane Warne left our 2003 campaign the day before we were to play our first game against Pakistan because he had failed his drug test in Australia. We had Brad Hogg as cover (with part-time backup from Michael Bevan, Darren Lehmann, Andrew Symonds). Brad Hogg never looked back from that point and was the spinner who led our attack in 2003, through the intervening four years to and through the 2007 World Cup. Andrew Symonds in 2003 was picked as our 15th player, not only because of his skills as a player and a person, but he could offer cover in a range of ways. Michael Bevan pulled a hamstring a day out from our first game, and Darren Lehmann was under suspension, so Andrew was picked for the first game verses Pakistan. The rest is history as the classics say, and he went on to dominate the Pakistan attack for 143*.
- In 2007 we lost Brett Lee to injury during the tour of New Zealand just prior to the World Cup. However, this tour was about the methodical planning we had put in place to ensure our training and pre-game preparation could be as smooth as possible. For example, I took our own bowling machine with leads and generators knowing that in the West Indies, promised facilities and equipment are not always per the plan. We had Sony PSP’s for not only amusement, but it was where we were able to place the edited vision for each upcoming game.
- The ‘fringe’ players added depth which is critical through a tournament; however, we had key experienced players who stood up through the tournaments such as Ponting, Martyn, Hayden, Gilchrist, Lehmann, Bevan, McGrath, Bichel, Lee, Gillespie – who can forget the innings of Ponting, Martyn in the 2003 final and then Gilchrist in the 2007 final.
- Depth in a squad is vital as it allows resting of key players when necessary; it allows for better training preparation; and it provides competition for places. The likes of Ian Harvey & Jimmy Maher in South Africa are prime examples. How Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel rescued us three times in Port Elizabeth in different games. Stuart Clarke, Brad Hodge, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson filled these roles in the Windies
And above all, it is managing the whole group through a 6-8 week period so that the team and individuals were building momentum in the tournament. At the same time, looking to peak for each individual game. Our approach in 2007 was more ruthless than 2003 as we tried to win each game as well as we could, and not look any further forward than that game. Two of the key approaches is to ensure that wherever possible, it was important for all players and staff to ‘get away’ for a day or two between games, then return refreshed ready for the next contest. And the second is the mix of people including support staff – a good balance of different personalities, humour, musical tastes, interests away from cricket, and so on.