“You guys are very annoying,” blurted out South Africa skipper Sune Luus. It was only a few minutes ago that her side had lost a T20 World Cup final at home. Among the few things she could articulate through the heavy fog of emotions was this: the Australian women’s cricket team is annoying.
Not just for South Africa. For India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and New Zealand. All of these are teams they beat to win the World Cup this year. Teams they brushed aside to win the World Cup last year. Or in 2020. Perhaps 2018? It’s tough to keep track. You get it though, right?
The win on Sunday in Cape Town marked not just a third straight T20 World Cup win in a row but also a fifth major title clinched in the last six years.
There’s a slang commonly used by football fans for a team that attains never-before-seen feats: broke football. Think Zinedine Zidane’s three off three Champions League winning Real Madrid team. Think Pep Guardiola’s 100 points accumulating Manchester City side. The domestic league dominating Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain teams. Teams who have made winning look like a computerised routine. In cricket, perhaps the description best fits Meg Lanning’s Australia.
Michael Vaughan agrees. Of all the things in the world, to make an Englishman agree on cricket with an Australian seems unimaginable. Not here though. “I think you are right,” the former England captain responded to a tweet from the Australian women’s cricket team handle about the team being ‘the best team on the planet’. With a thumbs up to seal the deal? To follow up on an earlier tweet, “Australian women’s cricket team are absolutely special.” With six clapping emojis? Jeez.
I think you are right 👍 https://t.co/KdgHzxyK05
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) February 27, 2023
During his 10-year playing career, Vaughan had squared off against Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting’s Australian teams, but he chose Lanning’s side as a superior one? Maybe because statistically they’ve dominated the international sport more completely than any of their compatriots, men or women.
Let’s take the ODIs. Since losing the 2017 ODI World Cup semifinal to India, Australia women played 42 ODIs on the road to lifting the trophy five years later in New Zealand. Out of these, they only lost twice. A win/loss rate (the number of wins they have had divided by the number of defeats) of 20. Better than Waugh’s Australia (1.18) on their road to win the World Cup (1996-1999). Better than Ponting’s Australian team of 2003 (4.00) or 2007 (3.25). Better than Clive Lloyd’s 1975 (6.00) or 1979 (4.50) West Indies teams. A vastly more dominating run to win an ODI World Cup than any other. It was during this time that Lanning and Co also manufactured a 26-game unbeaten streak, longest in the history of the format.
Best Win/Loss Rate on the way to win an ODI World Cup
|Australia women (2017-2022)||20|
|West Indies men (1971-1975)||6|
|Australia men (1999-2003)||4|
|Australia men (1996-1999)||1.18|
|Australia men (2003-2007)||3.25|
In T20Is, the script would be no different. On their way to lift the world title in 2023, Australia women won 25 of the 33 matches they played, losing only two. A win/loss rate of 12.50.
Best Win/Loss Rate on the way to win a T20 World Cup
|Australia women (2020-2023)||12.50|
|England women (2007-2009)||5.50|
|Australia women (2018-2020)||5.33|
|India men (2006-2007)||5.00|
|Pakistan men (2007-2009)||3.33|
The next best win-loss ratio among all the other men or women’s T20 World Cup winners is that of England women from 2009: 5.50. A gulf in between them and the current holders of the trophy, who bettered their own winning record over the three title wins in 2018, 2020 and 2023. Under the same captain.
It was in South Africa that Ricky Ponting lifted his first ICC trophy in 2003. 20 years later, it was in South Africa that Lanning left him behind to become the most decorated cricket captain with five ICC trophy lifts. She almost didn’t.
After having led Australia to a Commonwealth Games gold last summer, Lanning took an indefinite break from cricket. Working anonymously in a cafe in San Francisco. “I wasn’t sure at one stage of what my plan was going to be. I sort of went in that break with a pretty open mind about what the future looked like,” she recently told Network 10. “I soon realised I had great passion for the game. I loved it and there was still fair bit left for me to achieve.”
Four titles in five years weren’t good enough. And so a fifth. “In Australia, they are so used to winning, it becomes a habit,” India’s first women’s captain Shantha Rangaswamy had said to this paper ahead of this year’s tournament.
“I’m not sure, I can take too much credit for that. The team makes it very easy for me.” It isn’t just a cliche thrown around by the fabled Australian captain.
In South Africa, Beth Mooney was the top scorer. Megan Schutt their leading wicket taker. Ashleigh Gardener, the player of the tournament. In six games, Australia had five different players of the match. Winning contributions even outside just batting and bowling. Ellyse Perry, for instance, scored only two runs and conceded 14 off her over without a wicket against India in the semifinal. She would however step up in the field, saving two boundaries, with stupendous efforts in the deep. More than handy in a five-run win.
This, after India needed 39 off 33 deliveries with six wickets and a set Harmanpreet Kaur in the middle. In the end, the defending champions and the to-be champions even made that equation favorable for themselves. As they had done against the opposition in the Commonwealth Games gold medal match last year. As they have done on numerous occasions over the course of the last half a decade. So much so that when Beth Mooney was asked what she would say to a team that hired her as an advisor to beat this Australian side, she chuckled, “Just don’t turn up. It’s too hard.”
One can understand the confusion and disbelief around this Australian team not being nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award for the Team of the Year. After having lost just one off the 29 matches they played across formats last year. That too in a super over. Perhaps there needs to be a jury appointed for the jury. It’s the award’s loss after all.