ICC champions trophy : West Indies, Australia eager to make history

Mumbai, November 4:

World champion Australia is just one victory away from the only trophy missing from its collection of titles, but the path to the Champions Trophy is blocked by a rampant West Indies.

Defending its title is a huge motivation for the West Indies, which is eager to retain the Champions Trophy it clinched against all odds two years ago, reviving memories of the Caribbean team’s glorious era when limited-overs cricket carved out a niche parallel to the traditional Test matches.

Winner of the past two World Cups, Australia is making its maiden appearance in the final of the Champions Trophy, cricket’s second biggest limited-overs tournament that has grown from a one-week knockout event into a monthlong competition.

Australia stumbled out of the semi-finals at the previous two editions of the biennial tournament, a shortfall that Ricky Ponting’s team wants to rectify on Sunday before heading to the West Indies to defend next year’s world title. Brian Lara’s West Indies lineup is seeking to make history of its own by becoming the first side to retain the Champions Trophy. Despite its status as defending champion, the West Indies was made to qualifying for this year’s tournament after its ranking slipped below the top-six places that secured direct entry under the new format.

“We’ve beaten Australia once and we’ll go hard to try to win again,” said Lara, asserting that his World Cup preparation has started with this outing. “Our boys have begun believing in themselves, and we want to carry that feeling into the World Cup.”

But Ponting is equally eager to win the trophy that had eluded Australia during its long reign as world No 1. “We really want this title... Having come this far, there’s going to be no excuse if we don’t claim it,” said Ponting, whose Aussie squad goes into title encounter with a 2-2l record in one-dayers against West Indies this year, including a victory in a tri-series final in Kuala Lumpur two months ago.

The low-bouncing pitch of Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium had also seen the West Indies crash to 80 all out against Sri Lanka in the last match of the qualifying competition after both teams had secured spots in the main tournament.

Negotiating the subcontinent’s conditions —the dusty pitches and the weather — was once a major concern for teams which played their cricket on different pitches, but the Australians are now well acquainted with India after making several tours here in recent years.