Saturday, February 24, 2024

U-19 World Cup: Why Australia are such a dominant force in global events

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The Australian cricket team celebrates after defeating India in the final of the 2024 U-19 World Cup in Benoni on Sunday, 11 February. AP

Australia have done it again! Hugh Weibgen and Co ended up outclassing strong favourites India in the final of the 2024 U-19 World Cup in Benoni on Sunday, winning the youth tournament for a fourth-time in 15 editions in the process and beating the Indians at this stage of the tournament for the first time in three attempts.

India were heavily favoured to become the first team since Pakistan to win back-to-back U-19 world titles, given how the Uday Saharan-led side had dominated their opponents in the group stage and in the Super Sixes. As has been the case with Indian teams in ICC events of late however, they ended up falling short in the match that mattered the most, with their batting department crumbling under sustained pressure from the pace-heavy Australian attack.

Read | India fail to deliver when it matters most to get hearts shattered by Australia yet again

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Sunday’s result at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park doesn’t really put the Indian U-19 team in the same category as their senior counterparts. The ‘Boys in Blue’ have emerged winners on at least two occasions after having reached each of the last five World Cup finals. The senior men’s team hasn’t won a major global event since the 2013 Champions Trophy in England while the women are yet to taste success at a global level even if they have won multiple editions of the Asia Cup.

Australia, however, are a different breed altogether, and perhaps are the very definition of success when it comes to the sport of cricket in particular. Not only have they narrowed the gap with India in terms of U-19 world titles with a fourth victory, needing just one more triumph to go level with the ‘Boys in Blue’, they also are the most successful team in the history of the sport.

Read | ‘Would be surprised if all of them don’t go a very long way’: Captain Weibgen on AUS U-19 pacers

The Australian men, after all, have won the ICC World Cup, cricket’s showpiece event, a total of six times besides winning the Champions Trophy twice and the T20 World Cup once. And last year, they became the first team to win all the ICC trophies on offer by beating India in the final of the 2021-23 World Test Championship cycle at The Oval.

The Aussies are even more dominant in the women’s game — they have won the Women’s World Cup eight times in 12 editions and happen to be the defending champions at present. They have also won the T20 World Cup on six occasions, completing a hat-trick of titles in two different phases and head into this year’s edition in Bangladesh as the defending champions.

With their victory in the U-19 Men’s World Cup, Australia are now the title holders in every global cricketing event out there except the men’s T20 World Cup and the U-19 Women’s World Cup, which are currently held by England and Australia respectively.

And it’s not just ICC events where the Aussies have been so successful — they have also bossed bilateral contests, especially the Ashes, in several eras since they first locked horns with England in Melbourne in 1882. Such was the aura of their dominance that they appeared near unbeatable under the leadership of Don Bradman during the ‘Invincibles’ Era, as well as under Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Belinda Clarke, Meg Lanning just to name a few.

Australia’s secret to success decoded

So what is the secret to Australia’s success in the field of sport, especially cricket? The answer to that question lies in the successful system set in place by the powers that be that has allowed them to not only unearth star athletes across a wide variety of sports but hone their talent in such a manner that they end up bringing out the best in them more often than not.

Australia after all counts itself among nations with a robust sporting culture, where it plays an integral role in every day life and kids are encouraged to take up some sport from an early age. When it comes the ‘Gentleman’s Game’, backyard cricket is quite popular an activity among youngsters and adults alike. However, it is the system set in place through the various clubs in major cities, along with the Sheffield Shield, the men’s and women’s Big Bash League, the One-Day Cup, the Women’s National Cricket League and others that allows them to ensure a steady supply of the country’s top cricketers.

Just assembling talented cricketers, however, isn’t enough for a team to win titles on such a consistent basis. Their tough, bloody-minded approach towards sport, especially during their domination of the men’s game in the 1990s and the 2000s, as well as the fact that the Australians have been blessed with one inspirational leader after another, has contributed towards their success.

There was a bit of a lull in the men’s game after Australia completed a hat-trick of world titles in 2007. Though they won the 2015 World Cup at home under Michael Clarke’s leadership, they weren’t quite considered the consistent team that they had been across generations.

Under Pat Cummins’ leadership, however, the Aussies are starting to emulate the most successful teams of the past, having already won the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup. And it’s a similar story in the women’s game as well, where the team appears to be in good hands under Alyssa Healy’s leadership following Lanning’s shock retirement.

A number of teams have attempted to emulate the Australian model over the years, and the BCCI has attempted to channel the vast resources at their disposal in order to create something similar with Indian cricket. England too are attempting to catch up with their ‘Old Enemy’ by introducing a number of changes to their approach, the most prominent of which is the introduction of the revolutionary ‘Bazball’.

Few, however, are as adept at implementing a successful system in cricket as the Aussies. And judging by the future crop of cricketers who just got their first taste of success at the global level in Benoni on Sunday, Australian cricket can safely expect more success down the road.

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