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Australia’s GOATed core immortalizes itself with deserved world title

Last updated on 11 Jun 2023 | 03:34 PM
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Australia’s GOATed core immortalizes itself with deserved world title

Like Australia’s golden generation(s) of the past, this one will go down as one of the best sides in history

Australia have clinched the one trophy that was missing from their cabinet to ‘complete’ the sport and become the first team in history to have won every single trophy to have existed. 

And it couldn’t be more fitting that the ultimate prize has been clinched by their (second) golden generation which consists of their greatest batter since Sir Donald Bradman, their greatest ever off-spinner and their most important — and best — player of the past five years, who incidentally happens to skipper the side. 

This core of theirs, the makings of which began well over a decade ago, has seen the lowest of lows. Five of these players were a part of the squad that got brutalized 0-4 in India 10 years ago. 

Three years later, the same five players oversaw the infamous Hobart debacle. The Sandpaper gate has made people sort of forget completely about Hobart 2016 — where South Africa beat them by an innings and 80 runs — but, at that moment, it was considered the lowest point in Australia’s Test history in a very long time.

“Not since 1912 has an Australia Test side produced the same level of incompetence as the Hobart debacle against South Africa,” wrote in the aftermath of that Test, claiming Australian cricket has returned to the dark ages.

Then came the Sandpaper Gate in 2018, which dismantled Australian cricket altogether and stripped it completely of any dignity. 

Cricket in the country had hit its nether. 

The core, as a result of missing its two most important players, was inadvertently ripped apart. Forget the future, the present seemed uncertain. 

The side which lost 1-2 to India five years ago was unanimously described as the worst Australian team in over 40 years. There existed nothing but doom and gloom.

For the same core to stick together, pull Australian cricket back up, make it out of the rot and now to win the ultimate prize, the World Test Championship mace is truly a story for the ages. 

Today at The Oval, we witnessed the completion of a chapter. A redemption arc like no other. 

From the perspective of a viewer, sport is as much about celebrating stories as it is about celebrating victories. And every single player that started the final has a story that makes this triumph all the more sweeter.


Around this time seven years ago, it was unclear whether Pat Cummins would play Test cricket for Australia ever again. He’d played four first-class matches in the preceding five years and seemed destined to turn into a ‘what if’ case. 

Who could have possibly imagined that, seven years on, Cummins would not only be the best fast bowler in the world but a championship winning skipper for Australia? Mind you, before him, the Aussies did not have a fast bowler as captain since 1956. That the entire country unanimously accepted Cummins and had no problems with the norm getting broken is a testament to not only the cricketer he is but the person he is.

Cummins, it is worth noting, took charge of the Test side which found itself in a mini-crisis days ahead of The Ashes, out of nowhere, thanks to the ejection of incumbent skipper Tim Paine. 

In just eighteen months, he already has a CV that makes a solid case to regard him as a ‘great’ captain: a 4-0 win over England in The Ashes, a victory away in Pakistan and now, the mother of all prizes, the World Test Championship mace.

Cummins is, even without his achievements as captain, a certified Hall of Famer, but this triumph has confirmed his status as one of the greatest cricketers in Australian history. He joined the OG core a little late, 2017 to be precise, but in six years, he’s put himself in the A+ bracket. He truly turned out to be the missing piece in Australia’s Test puzzle, his inclusion elevating the Test side to a whole different level. 

It is fitting that he’s led this batch of players to the pinnacle. 


Steven Smith was the first of the core members to debut in Test cricket — 14 years ago, in 2009 — and in the eyes of the public a decade ago, he was the least likely to enjoy success. The Sandpaper gate happened in 2018 but eight years prior to that, in 2010, Smith saw a low that none of the other core members did: he was a part of the Australian side that got rinsed in The Ashes by England *at home*. 

There, Smith looked so out of depth that people started name-calling after witnessing him bat: clown, joker, amateur and a lot more.

13 years later, here he is, having won the WTC, and in the process secured the tag of being the greatest batter of this generation by striking a title-winning ton. In a way, life has come full circle for Smith. It was in England that he made his Test debut all those years ago. Now, it’s again in England that he’s claimed the most precious and prestigious prize.

His future too was uncertain five years ago, albeit due to his own undoing, and this triumph could so easily not have happened. It probably is fitting that it did. It would truly have been a shame had the best Test cricketer of the past 15 years not had the opportunity to get his hands on the mace.


What about David Warner? It was not too long ago that he was considered as important to the Test side as Smith, but, after a point, the right-hander steered well clear of him. 

Warner hit rock bottom as a cricketer in South Africa five years ago, but it was in England in 2019 that he hit rock bottom as a batter. He was humiliated to the level few, if any, batters have been in the sport’s history, bullied day in and day out, game in and game out by Stuart Broad and England.

He was written off heading into the final. Fans of both teams concluded beforehand that Warner would be a walking wicket.

As it turned out, he ended up playing one of the most important hands in the final, easily proving to be the best opener. In testing conditions on the morning of Day 1, he eked out a resilient yet counter-punching 43 that set the ball rolling for Australia. 

Warner’s Test career was threatening to come to an unfortunate, premature end but it now looks like he’ll have his way, and retire in front of his own fans at SCG in seven months’ time. 

It is nothing short of what his career deserves.


15 years ago, Nathan Lyon wouldn’t have dreamt of playing for Australia.

He is now a world champion, and is on course to hit the 500-wicket mark in The Ashes.

In a way, it was only fitting that Lyon took the wicket that clinched his country the mace, for he’s been the biggest constant in the Test side in the past 12 years.

Much like Smith, Lyon was not destined for success. He started brightly, but people expected his bubble to burst sooner or later. 

It hasn’t. Lyon is still roaring. The fire inside him is still burning bright. 

Prior to the final, Lyon spoke about how the India encounter will be a ‘World Cup final’ for him. 

"This is my World Cup final. Being part of the 2019 [ODI] World Cup, where we weren't good enough against England in the semi-final, it did feel the World Cup dream probably slipped away,” he claimed.

Now Lyon can proudly say that he, like his other teammates, is a world champion. 


Usman Khawaja was seen as Ricky Ponting’s heir more than a decade ago, but, despite being a regular on the Test side, he never really managed to elevate his game to the extent that he became indispensable. The other core members left him behind and by late 2019, he found himself ousted from the Test side.

At that point, it did seem like Khawaja’s Test career was done. The prospect of a 30-something year-old making a comeback into the Test side seemed bleak. 

Four years on, Khawaja, too, is a world champion. He did not contribute in the final like the others did, but he was the sole reason why Australia found themselves at The Oval in the first place. 

And it is sweet redemption for Uzzie too, winning the world title in the same country in which he got dropped from the Test side.


Mitchell Starc is a prodigiously gifted cricketer, but while it took him only a few years to cement himself as an ODI great, he never managed to outrightly become a Test superstar. And it was always going to be difficult for him to do so, considering the standards he had to live up to — he, mind you, was the one who took the mantle over from Mitchell Johnson.

Starc still isn’t a bonafide Test superstar. What he is, however, is an integral part of this Australian core. A silent warrior of sorts. 

Look at his numbers and you’ll probably be underwhelmed by most metrics barring the strike rate. He also often blows hot and cold. But what he’s always done is provide game-changing moments, and his showing in the final was sort of Starc in a nutshell. He conceded boundaries, was super expensive, but he delivered the goods in the form of two precious top-order wickets: Kohli in the first innings and Rahane in the second.

This is a man that’s been open about his love for the Test format — he recently said he wants to play 100 Tests for Australia — and has, unlike any other top cricketer in the world, preserved himself for the longest format by consciously opting out of the IPL and other franchise leagues.

The sacrifice has been worth it. Starc is now a world champion.


The last of the core members is Josh Hazlewood, who unfortunately did not play a big part in the 2021/23 cycle and had to miss the final with injury, but, make no mistake, the big man deserves his medal every bit.

Hazlewood has over 200 Test wickets to his name and single-handedly kept Australia’s pace attack afloat before the emergence of Cummins. 

He might not go down as a bonafide Test great, but he’ll forever be known for his role in making Australia’s attack in Tests one of the greatest of all time. 


Cummins, Smith, Warner, Khawaja, Lyon, Starc and Hazlewood are all Australian Hall of Famers, but it speaks volumes about the strength of this Test unit that the other members of the side, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Alex Carey, Cameron Green and Scott Boland all were as important, if not more, for the side in this cycle.

Boland is 34, and might not play another WTC final. But that’s okay. He is deservedly a world champion. And his name will forever be etched in the history books. His cult, and the subsequent hero status, will never, ever die. 

But in Labuschagne, Head, Carey and Green, it does feel like Australia have found their core for both the present and the future. 

All four players played invaluable hands at The Oval, but it’s fair to say that this quartet will find itself in many more finals in the future. Among these four, a couple of generational talents could potentially become not just Australian Hall of Famers, but all time greats. 

Make no mistake, though, they will have big shoes to fill. The current core of senior players have set the bar absurdly high. 

But while we’re rightly singing the praises of this batch of players, it is only fair that a shoutout is given to both Justin Langer and Tim Paine. Both Langer and Paine’s tenures ended rather bitterly, but they have every right to feel a part of the triumph. For, after all, they were the ones who kickstarted the rebuild, and put Australia into the path of redemption. 

It was around 2013 that this present core started to take shape, and since then, Australia have won in South Africa, won in New Zealand, won in Pakistan, won the Ashes at home three out of three times, retained the Ashes in England and been the world’s number one Test side.

The two achievements missing from their CV is a Test series win in India, and an outright series win in England. The chance to win in India seems to have gone for good, but in a week’s time, they have the opportunity to set their record in England straight. A first series win in England in 22 years beckons.

If they do end up achieving it, great. Even if they don’t, however, it really doesn’t matter.

This (second) golden generation of Australia will still go down as one of the greatest sides of all time.

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