MELBOURNE: Dark sunglasses were the order of the day for Australia’s triumphant cricket team on Monday as they paraded the World Cup trophy to hundreds of fans at a public reception after a night of heavy partying at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
With voices hoarse and complexions pasty after a few snatched hours of sleep, players grinned and sometimes grimaced as their team mates battled to communicate their elation to a relentless MC and a large media throng.
“A little hungover,” Australia’s retiring one-day captain Michael Clarke said at Melbourne’s Federation Square, when asked how he felt a day after his team’s crushing seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the final.
“I think I speak for everybody in that sense.
“No, look, I think we’re extremely proud. The fact there was a lot of expectation and added pressure put on us at the start of the tournament being a home World Cup was something we embraced from the first ball of the tournament.
“And I think the boys should be really proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Clarke enjoyed a fairytale finish to his one-day career, hitting a team-high score of 74 in front of a record crowd of over 93,000 and making bowling changes that led to immediate wickets.
Australia have yet to name a successor but Steve Smith, who led the test team against India and enjoyed a fine World Cup with the bat, is expected to take the reins.
“(Clarke) was a great captain. He’s been an aggressive captain on the field, sets aggressive fields. He’s got to be somebody that we’ll definitely miss,” Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson told reporters.
Australia have now won four of the last five World Cups, their quarter-final loss to eventual champions India at the 2011 tournament the only interruption to their dominion over one-day cricket dating back to 1999 in England.
Along with Clarke, who will continue to captain the test side, a number of seasoned players are likely to have played their last World Cups, including Johnson, all-rounder Shane Watson and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
But Australia will be able to retain the bulk of their squad and such is their record of regeneration and innovation, they will back themselves to defend their title in England in 2019.
Left-arm seamer and player of the tournament Mitchell Starc, already a frightful prospect for most batsmen, is 25 and can only get better if his fitness allows.
He will not be short for quality fast bowling company, with Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Faulkner all under 26, not to mention a fit James Pattinson, who missed selection for the World Cup by dint of a lack of preparation after a long battle with injury.
Australia may not want for batsmen either, with David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Smith all easily young enough for a tilt at back-to-back trophies.
Though the personnel will be important, Australia’s drive to remain top of the heap will be essential as teams plot their downfall over the next four years.
Opening batsman Warner laid any doubts about that quality to rest.
“Our goal is to be number one in all formats,” he said. (Reuters)