Australia’s crushing defeat of New Zealand saw them march to their fourth World Cup out of the last five tournaments, but this could be a watershed moment for their unprecedented dominance.
Undoubtedly, head coach Darren Lehmann has fashioned the best One Day International side in 21st century cricket. As injury-prone skipper Michael Clarke departs, however, a number of other sides look as though they may be capable of taking that crown in four years’ time.
Co-hosts and finalists New Zealand are one such team. Under Brendan McCullum, the Black Caps have turned a corner in the last five years, and even went into this World Cup as joint favourites.
South Africa, too, have the credentials to be future champions, thanks largely to star man AB De Villiers. Their mentality is still in need of work, as they appeared to crumble in the final overs of their semi-final against New Zealand. That should improve as they mature as a side, but before all else, they need to challenge their sense of entitlement that prevails in the dressing room, which led to rash promises to win the Cup before they had even boarded a flight.
Judging purely on the numbers of Indian fans who had bought tickets to the final, the Men in Blue will have been disappointed to have exited at the semi-finals this time around. Whatever those ticket sales might say about their complacency, it is clear that India have constructed a winning mentality, no doubt from a couple of series against England, sure to give any ailing side a confidence boost. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been key in India’s transformation. The fact that they continue to blossom at such an incredible rate is testament to his leadership, and his ability to lead from the front should hold them in good stead ahead of 2019.
For Australia then, the question remains of how they will hold on to their place at the very top of world cricket. Since Clarke has chosen to hang up his bat in favour of focusing on Tests, it is vital that the Baggy Green choose their next skipper very carefully indeed.
Down Under, it is often joked about whether the highest seat in the land belongs to the Prime Minister or in fact the Australian cricket captain. With that in mind, finding someone within the ranks who can replace the heroic Clarke will be a hard task. David Warner is being largely touted as a future captain, but his often erratic behaviour off the field suggests that may be too big a risk for Cricket Australia to take. Quite apart from Warner’s notorious bar fight with England’s Joe Root a few years back, it was only recently that he was reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for an alleged racial slur on India’s Rohit Sharma, whom he told to “speak English”.
Steve Smith, on the other hand, is a far more suitable candidate for the captaincy. He has grown into his role after an extremely difficult period in the national side, and deserves to be rewarded accordingly. Wicket-keeper Brad Haddin would be another welcome choice, though he would be one of very few men to captain the Aussies from behind the stumps.
Having endured years of turmoil with Clarke’s back and knees, though, it would be surprising if Haddin is given the opportunity, chiefly because of ongoing doubts about his shoulder injury.
India and New Zealand are ultimately the biggest threat to Australia’s hegemony in the next four years. It is up to Lehmann – and his new captain to fence them off – but at the present rate, the next World Cup will certainly make interesting viewing.