Despite all the talk about their army of ageing players, Australia’s two young players, Michael Clarke and Shaun Tait, are firing in the Cup. A gifted batsman who has taken time to capture the key No 4 position, Clarke is finally living up to his potential, while Tait is doing with pace what Brett Lee was expected to do.
Apart from showing signs of emerging as the future pillars of Australian cricket, these two have reduced the concerns of Ricky Ponting – if he had any – by consistently delivering the goods in this World Cup, besides increasing the headache of their rivals. All knew that the older Aussies were made of gold but few anticipated the younger ones to torment as much.
Fast and furious, Tait adds to his team a dimension that has no substitute in cricket. Pure pace is one weapon that can overcome the barriers of pitch, weather and alien conditions because it obeys no command. Tait has proved this time and again in this World Cup.
"I’m not surprised at all with what Tait has done,” said Ponting after the semi-final, where Tait returned a career-best four for 39.
"It was a concern, yes, when Lee pulled out, but this guy made the team because he was expected to take wickets and that’s exactly what he has done. He has taken quite a few of them and hopefully, there are more in store,” the Australian skipper added.
Tait’s four-wicket effort against South Africa was actually an improvement on the three for 22 he took against New Zealand in the Super Eights match, and it shows how the bowler who constantly clocks over 140 km per hour has responded to the needs of his team.
The most important point is that he has been as effective with the old ball as he has been with the new, which has given his captain the option of using him in different phases of an innings.
Meanwhile, while Clarke’s performances have often got overshadowed by the amount of runs Matthew Hayden and Ponting have scored, his manner of his batting has not been. The New South Wales player, who turns 26 this August, looks comfortable against pace and spin and like many of his illustrious predecessors to have occupied that slot in the batting order, dominates the attack once he plays himself in.
“It has been good to get a few runs under my belt. The way the others have been batting, I didn’t expect to get too many opportunities. It always helps if you come in to bat with enough experience before and after yourself. It gives you a lot of freedom,” Clarke summed up his efforts thus far.
Clarke and Tait represent the young face of this Australian side that has only one more player who is below 30 – Shane Watson – in the XI. It is true that the more experienced ones are doing the bulk of the job, but it is impossible to ignore the role played by these two. What Australia do in the final will depend considerably on how the young brigade fares.