Aussies ooze confidence
Barbados – Glenn McGrath has been non-committal about his plans after his retirement on Saturday but, on the evidence of the last few weeks, he could always form a comedy double act with Ricky Ponting.
Perhaps they could reprise the Morecambe and Wise routine that takes place with them both in a double bed in their pyjamas.
Media conferences have seen the duo bouncing one-liners off each other throughout. On Friday, with one of the biggest games of their lives less than 24 hours away, there were digs at Ponting’s golf game and McGrath’s work-rate in the nets, among others.
In front of two banks of television cameras, they were as laid-back as if they were still on the golf course, as Aussies have been in situations like this throughout the tournament.
It is a symptom of their hyper-confidence but I don’t think it is arrogance. They have arguably worked harder than any other side on making sure they are as ready as they can be.
They are certain that, if they are at their best, they will be too much for any team in the world.
Coach John Buchanan’s long-term planning had them working for up to three hours per day in the gym in February – one of the reasons they lost the home one-day series to England.
And their programme has been designed to bring them to a peak for the final fortnight of the tournament.
Reaching their fourth successive World Cup final was never the goal, of course. They want to go one step further and have continued to work on the minutia.
The favourite maxim of English rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave, who spoke to the Aussie side three weeks ago, was that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
On Friday Ponting and Matthew Hayden, the tournament’s leading scorer, went through net sessions which either involved bowling coach Troy Cooley delivering at a 45-degree angle or facing a bowling machine set lower than usual.
They were aiming to replicate the unorthodox action of Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, who last faced Australia almost three years ago, in two Tests in Darwin and Cairns, when he took 10 wickets in all, including Ponting once and Adam Gilchrist twice.
Barely half an hour after completing victory over South Africa in Wednesday’s semi-final, Michael Clarke was able to talk in detail about the action of a bowler he has never faced, based on the video footage he had already watched.
McGrath hopped off the bus with a smile for his last-ever training session, and to be honest didn’t do much more than kick a football around and have a look at the wicket. He knows he has done everything he needs to do.
That wicket, by the way, is the one used for the Super 8 game between England and Bangladesh, when it offered wild bounce early but baked into a spinner’s paradise as England struggled to knock off the runs.
“The pitch didn’t make it difficult – England made it difficult,” said the groundsman I spoke to.
However, the choice between batting first against Malinga or Shaun Tait, or batting second against Muttiah Muralitharan or Brad Hogg will be an intriguing one at the toss.
No doubt Ponting and McGrath will have their game faces on by then.