I wonder what Michael Clarke and his merry band must really think every time they are reminded of their seeding, or the lack of it, at this World Twenty20 in the West Indies. Australia, winners of the last three 50-over World Cups, were ranked ninth among the 12 nations for this carnival of cricket in the Caribbean, behind even Bangladesh and ahead of only Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan.
Do they take it as an affront? Or does it remind them of those dark days when Australia were strugglers in this format, running up a streak of five defeats as they crashed out of the last World T20 in England? Probably both. Being underestimated always seems to bring out the best among the Aussies, and the 1987 and 2007 World Cups are cases in point. Long used to being favourites, they abhor the tag of underdogs and waste no time in tearing it off.
It is not all bravado though. Cricket in Australia has never been based on sentiments. India's meekness when faced with genuine pace and stifling bounce is not a reflection of their subservient attitude during the days of the Raj. The simpler truth is they were out-thought by Australia, and that is the difference. Even after almost 80 years of international cricket, India are as uncomfortable as Afghanistan against sharp-rising deliveries. Australia, on the other hand, have produced perhaps the greatest spinner of all time. What does that prove?
Pride and intent are the obvious essentials of Australian cricket. They also invest a lot of thought into the game. Hard decisions are made with ease. A captain like Ricky Ponting has no issues about stepping aside and handing over the T20 baton to Clarke. And players such as David Warner can step into the national squad without playing a single first-class match. Warner was there at the last World T20 as well, opening the innings with Shane Watson, as he is now. In England, they managed 85 runs together from two matches, with a duck apiece. In the Caribbean, they have emerged as the most formidable opening duo with 263 runs from four matches, scored at a strike-rate in excess of 150.
If bowlers have been lucky enough to get past them early, the Hussey brothers - Michael and David - and Cameron White have ensured there is no respite. That gives them five proven match-winners with the bat alone; other teams can boast two or three at best among their XI. There is no lack of riches in the bowling department either. Shaun Tait has been given a licence to thrill with the new ball. Dirk Nannes is enjoying his cricket; he played for the Netherlands at the last World T20 and announced his retirement from first-class cricket earlier this year to concentrate on the short forms of the game.
That brings us to the fielding. When David Hussey took that stunning catch in the Indian Premier League, leaping over the boundary ropes to scoop the ball back into play, he claimed they had been trying this out during training. And to prove the point, Warner and Doug Bollinger followed up with similarly stunning efforts. How many other teams would be trying out this sort of thing in training? That is Australian cricket - a heady mix of talent and tenacity, innovation and strategy, pride and purpose. Unbeaten in T20 since crashing out of the last World T20, with eight wins and a tie in completed games, Australia are now favourites to add another trophy to their overflowing cabinet. And if that happens, there will be many eating humble pie along with the "seeds". @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org