By Syed Khalid Mahmood
In the end it was in the fitness of things that the best team having entered the knockout stage of the competition went on claim the trophy. Yes the Australians were the worthy winners of the title after having proved themselves the strongest of all participating outfits. Ricky Ponting deserved to be crowned again after yet another spectacular performance.
This title win should rank higher and feel sweeeter for the Aussies who managed to do it with a relatively young and inexperienced outfit. They were a much more formidable side when they had clinched the Champions Trophy in India for the first time in 2006 and there was hardly any element of surprise in Ponting having run away with the glittering cup.
Things were different in 2009 when Ponting returned to defend the title. Although they had demolished England 6-1 in the ODI series on the eve of the Champions Trophy they were expected to face tougher challenges with South Africa and India rated as the firm favourites due to a combination of factors.
Obviously nobody was foolish enough to write the Australians off but there certainly were not many people giving them as much of a chance as they had in the past when Ponting used to have the services of master blasters like Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden and champion bowlers like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
It was an opportunity for the Australian youngsters to come good on the international stage and they rose to the occasion under the able leadership of Ponting whose purple patch with the bat made the difference.
It’s nice of Ponting to have recognized the outstanding performance of the youngsters in helping Australia retain the Champions Trophy with hints of conviction.
"We have gone through some ups and downs in the last 18 months. A number of great players have left and we brought in a lot of young, fresh players. It was great to see some of them stand up and deliver," Ponting was quoted as saying after Australia completed a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the final in Centurion on October 5.
The Australian youngsters did not show signs of nerves and were not overawed by the occasion when New Zealand tried to make a comeback in the game. Fast bowler Peter Siddle and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz bowled exceptionally well at a stage when the New Zealanders were attempting to cut loose.
The Black Caps had opened up the game even while defending a modest total of 200 when they got the prized scalp of Ponting to reduce Australia to 6 for two. It was the 128-run third wicket partnership between Shane Watson and Cameron White that allowed Australia to regain control. "Two young guys at the crease at 6 for 2, it doesn't get any tougher and they did a great job," Ponting acknowledged.
"In the ODI series in England after the Ashes, we did well there to put ourselves in a position where we can give this tournament a little bit of a shake. We've played some great cricket over the last couple of weeks here," the victorious captain noted.
Ponting led from the front and his own batting form was instrumental in motivating his youthful side. His aggregate of 288 was the highest in the tournament earning him a golden. He was also declared Man-of-the-Series award, ahead of Watson, who scored unbeaten centuries in semifinal and final.
October 7, 2009