It was as if all the lead up matches had been taken as they were warm-ups for the real show. As Ponting strode out to the wicket with a gritted face of determination knowing that this is career defining moment either way it ends up. Having failed against the lesser sides and claiming his big score was only around the corner, he was now to turn the corner.
A knock of courage when the entire stadium is against you for most of the tournament the media as well, stories of broken TV’s, match fixing all a ploy by the local tabloids to throw off the World Cup holders. It was a tough ask for any team to win 4 World Cups in a row, a feat not even achieved at a football level. Since Steve Waugh's men began the dynasty in 1999, the football title has changed hands four times: from France to Brazil, then Italy and now Spain. Winning one world tournament is exceedingly difficult, let alone three in succession.
This was not an Australian side of aging superstars like the one that claimed the Ashes white wash on home soil,, the side was one with a foot firmly planted on both sides of the fence, with veterans in Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin & Brett Lee at least 3 of these have seen the last of World crickets 6 week festival and one will be hard pressed to hold his spot down for the next. Australia took the risk of playing an all pace attack in a land of dusty roads, the results were either going to be bowling sides out for little or giving them a lot. Unlike the summers Ashes tour no blame I feel can be laid on the selectors as for once they took the best available, some will talk of Doherty instead of Krezja but what one did the other would have done no better.
It was the single loss to Pakistan that in truth sent them home a little earlier, having lost that match it set them up to play India much earlier than they would have liked. Winning would have enabled a match-up of less importance against a sloppy West Indian team. Hindsight can be life’s burden when dealing with the past, but if the stars align this Indian side should go on to win the trophy. India’s batting towards the tail is like fighting a centipede of runs, the further you get down the order the more runs are available. Even the dismissal of Sachin and the denial of his 100th century in front of partisan crowd of color and sound, was not enough to put out the flames of runs burning in the scorched outfield.
That is little consolation to this 2011 Australian squad, roughly half of whom didn't experience any of those earlier successes. Times change, and to be beaten by an India side that was better than Australia is no disgrace. Ponting's team entered the tournament with the No.1 ODI ranking - for now, they still hold that position - but were far from being the favorites’.
There were factors beyond their control that contributed to their lack of success. Their two frontline spinners, Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty, were unavailable due to injuries, as were fast bowlers like Clint McKay and Ryan Harris, who could have added variety. Two weeks in the middle of the tournament without a match, when their clash with Sri Lanka was washed out, didn't help either.
But ultimately, Australia just weren't good enough. Four teams will reach the semi-finals, and will deserve to be there. Australia did not play well enough to join them. That is not to say that the powers that be should blindly accept that nothing can be done. Moving on and making hard decisions will allow regrowth and rejuvenation.
The selectors will be loath to make any major changes, including to the leadership, before the review of Australia's on-field performance is completed around August. After the Ashes debacle, they have their own jobs to worry about without rocking the boat further. Why pre-empt the review, they will ask. But it would be wise to use the Bangladesh trip to look at some new faces, men who might become key players for Australia over the next few years.