Finally Australians have done it. ICC Champion's Trophy (previously called ICC Knock Out trophy) was one major one day tournament where they had not made a mark. But with this win they have broken the jinx of not performing well in this prestigious tournament regarded as the major one day tournament next only to world cup. For the enthusiasts this was their 31st major title in ODIs.
ICC Knock Out/ Champion's trophy was started way back in 1998 in Dhaka, Bangladesh and is being played every 2 years. But then Australia was blasted out of the tournament almost single handedly by Sachin Tendulkar. There was no concept of groups at that time in this tournament. You lose the match and you are out of the tournament. South Africa claimed the title outsmarting West Indies in the final. Then again in the year 2000 in Kenya, Australia was outplayed by India this time with new stars Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh. Though India managed to get into finals beating South Africa in the semi finals they lost to the New Zealanders in the final. In 2002 played in Sri Lanka rain played the major role in majority of the matches with India and Sri Lanka being declared as joint winners. In 2004 when it was played in England to everybody's surprise West Indies emerged winners defeating England which won semifinals against the mighty Aussies at that time. Ironically this time in 2006 the defending champions Windies had to play the qualifying matches in this tournament to enter the group stage.
Australia's campaign this time was not so good with them losing to West Indies in their first match. But then Aussies are Aussies. They could turn around things in no time. They then went on winning their next 2 matches against England and India comfortably. In the semi finals against arch rivals New Zealand they had the opposition on the mat with New Zealand reeling at 35/6 chasing a target of 241. But then Australia too had their anxious moments when Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram put on 103 runs for the 7th wicket. In the end Australia managed to win the match by 34 runs. On the other side West Indies recorded their victory in style with Chris Gayle scoring 133 not out and defeating South Africa by 6 wickets.
the final between Australia and West Indies proved to be an anti-climax. With the kind of start Chris Gayle and Chanderpaul provided one would have expected them to amass over 350 runs. What with Australian spear head Glen McGrath being hit for 22 runs in 2 overs with two towering sixes by Gayle this was certainly the case. McGrath shaking his head after being hit was very very rare these days. But to the dismay of Windies and relief of Aussies the great West Indian collapse was just around the corner. But it started too early that day. Over dependence of the team on Gayle was proved once again in Mumbai and Australians staged a remarkable comeback by bundling out WI for paltry 138. Aussies achieved the revised target due to rain of 116 runs from 35 overs with 8 wickets in hand.
West Indian collapse is not new. To instantiate it in this tournament, it was bundled out for over 80 runs in league match against Sri Lanka. Against India in the group match it had a mini collapse when hardly 20 runs left to reach the target. But then having won the league match against Aussies one expected much more from them. Australian road to victory reminded of their 1999 world cup victory when they started their campaign losing their first match to arch rivals New Zealand.
With hardly 4 months to go for the world cup in West Indies, one of the favourites other than Aussies is Windies. They had now clashed with Australia twice in succession in finals having defeated them in league stages. Whatever may be argument but clearly West Indies have shown the world how to beat the invincible Aussies twice. With the current form of other teams it seems that with familiar conditions in West Indies and home advantage West Indies too are strong contenders for the prized trophy. Will the golden days of West Indies return? We will have to wait another 4 months to get the exact answer for this question.