After 14 long years, the Australian Men’s team finally has a T20 World Cup next to its name.
And could there ever have been a more fitting way for the drought to end than for Glenn Maxwell, the golden boy of the country’s golden generation, arguably the greatest T20 cricketer to have emerged out of Australia, to hit the winning runs via one of his trademark strokes, the reverse-hit?
Truly the stuff of dreams. Poetic in every sense.
None of this was supposed to happen. Australia were projected to not make the semi-finals, and the general consensus was that they were abiding by a template that was archaic and outdated.
They were told that T20 World Cups are won by a ‘team’ and not just a group of world-class individuals, and were urged to re-think the way they look at the format.
But as this golden generation stands all, having finally put its hands on the one trophy that had eluded the country for nearly a decade-and-a-half, it is really not the ‘process’ behind the triumph that we need to be talking about.
Instead, what we need to be shedding light on is how this squad comprises a group of determined, steadfast individuals who, despite encountering adversity after adversity, never lost hope and believed in themselves long enough to finally get the closure they deserved.
It would only be fair to start with the skipper himself, Aaron Finch.
Five years ago, in 2016, Finch was all set to lead Australia in the World T20 in India. Out of nowhere, however, he was stripped of captaincy a month prior to the competition, only to be told that it would be Steve Smith who would instead be taking charge.
For Finch, that stung.
"To lose that was really disappointing and I've never hidden that fact of being disappointed with that," he would later say about the incident.
And just when it looked like he would finally get a chance to lead the side he built in a T20 World Cup at home, the pandemic struck. What followed on the other side was the stuff of nightmares.
Australia found themselves in a rut they could not get out of, and, worse, Finch himself ruined his knee. In August, he did not know if he would make it to the T20 World Cup due to the same.
Then there was also the occasional opinion piece which asked if Finch deserved a spot in the XI at all, given his dwindling form.
Fast forward a couple of months and Finch is now the first ever Australian captain to win a Men’s T20 World Cup.
Perhaps he did not contribute as much as he would have liked with the bat, but Finch did win 6 of the 7 tosses. And funny as it may sound, by merely winning the toss alone, Finch probably ended up playing as significant a part as any other individual in the squad.
And just like that, his legacy is now sealed.
What about his opening partner, David Warner?
Warner entered this competition not just having been humiliated by his IPL franchise, but also with the reputation of being a T20WC flop (having averaged 21.50 across 4 World Cups).
After scores of 0, 1 and 14 across the two warm-up games and the first match, he was declared ‘finished’. Scores of 1 and 18 against England and Bangladesh were used as evidence to label his fifty against Sri Lanka ‘lucky’, and he was categorised as deadwood.
Someone recognized worldwide as a T20 batting great, Warner looked like he was at the risk of concluding his career with no notable contributions at the T20 International level.
Not anymore. He will now forever be recognized as the one player integral to Australia’s first ever T20 World Cup win.
But Warner’s redemption arc has nothing on Mitchell Marsh.
Back in 2011, as a 19-year-old, Marsh was dubbed the future of Australian cricket. He'd even captained the country to a U19 World Cup title. But up until this T20 World Cup, his international career was a car crash.
Never-ending injuries halted his progress, and his continued presence in the Test side despite constant failures infuriated fans back home. To the extent that, in the Boxing Day Test three years ago, he was booed at the MCG.
Marsh himself admitted a year later that “most of Australia” hated him.
Yet he kept grinding it at the domestic level, did not let injuries deflate him and clinged on to the hope that someday, he will be able to turn it around.
He has, now. Years down the line, Mitchell Marsh will be remembered as the superstar batter who played one of the greatest T20 innings of all time in a friggin World Cup final.
And, from now on, all he will receive back home is adulation.
Matthew Wade’s is a story that is not too different.
A decade ago, he ought to have been the next Gilchrist. At 24, he was close to becoming the country’s long-term all-format keeper. That never materialized.
A week ago, he feared that the semi-final against Pakistan would be his last ever international game, and dreaded that he might turn out to be a mere footnote in Australian cricket history.
That is no longer the case.
Wade will now forever be the warrior whose heroics proved integral to his country creating history. No longer a footnote, but a header in future history chapters.
Marcus Stoinis, meanwhile, prior to this World Cup, spent all his peak losing, losing, losing and losing. He’d scored eight fifty-plus scores for Australia, not a single one of them in a winning cause.
He broke all sorts of records in the Big Bash League, only for his side Melbourne Stars to inexplicably choke when it mattered. No different was his experience at the Delhi Capitals, where he did not taste the flavour of victory.
And much like Marsh, he could simply not stamp his authority at the international level. He was dropped and was close to being discarded.
Stoinis still does not have a winning-fifty to his name, but he sure well knows what it means to be a winner. But most importantly, he knows how it feels to contribute to a victory.
For Stoinis’ best mate Adam Zampa, this tournament is a watershed moment in his career, for he has finally proved that he can be the country’s go-to man.
Five years ago in the 2016 World T20, Smith did not bowl Zampa’s quota of four overs in the virtual quarter-final against India due to not having enough trust in the leggie. In the 2019 World Cup, Zampa was dropped mid-way through the tournament and was replaced by Test specialist Nathan Lyon. He was ‘that’ player who the management did not hesitate to dispense.
Zampa has not only now made himself indispensable, but has grabbed an ICC event by the scruff of its neck and has shown that no amount of responsibility fazes him.
The arcs of Maxwell and Hazlewood are no less riveting. The latter, in particular, who two years ago was seen as a T20 outcast whose metronomic bowling was only fit for Test cricket.
But arguably the most fascinating of all is that of the head coach Justin Langer, who over the past 18 months has seen his image get shattered. Langer’s own players did not like him, and prominent sections of the Australian media essentially called him a dictator without calling him a dictator.
For him, this victory, if nothing, should serve as a self-vindication. He can now go to bed peacefully at night everyday knowing that his coaching methods were good enough to lead the country to a World Cup triumph. Not many in history can boast of such a feat.
And therein lies the secret to Australia’s success in this World Cup.
Like England, they did not spend months figuring out what their best combination was. Nor did they, like India, have ideal preparation heading into the competition.
All Australia had was special individuals. Except this time, nearly everyone had a point to prove. Usually a couple of such players is enough to light a fire and make history, but the Aussies somehow ended up having an entire squad of them.
Take that and throw it into an unpredictable format like T20, and anything can happen.
Luckily, for Australia, magic happened.