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The True Wizards Of Oz?

It’s not a given that the current Australian side is their best ever

The True Wizards Of Oz?
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Are Steve Waugh’s men the best to have worn the baggy green? Seven consecutive Test wins-on top of the stunning World Cup triumph last year-may suggest they are. But considering that six of those victories have come at home against two uniformly inconsistent sides (Pakistan first and India now) it’s too early to even start comparing them with, say, Mark Taylor’s men.

Winning "away" is what gets the ‘desi’ tiger extra ‘bhav’. And it was here that "Tubby" Taylor left his stamp, leading his side to wins over South Africa in South Africa, Pakistan in Pakistan, West Indies in the West Indies, England in England... everybody except, ironically, India in India. But "Tugga" Waugh’s first two series as captain, in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean, were no great shakes.

To be fair, Taylor inherited the nucleus of a match-winning side from Alan Border, who built the team from scratch after Kerry Packer had ripped Australia apart with his World Series Cricket. But Taylor had to overcome an equally big storm in the form of South Africa, when the Springboks returned to world cricket. However, Waugh, who took over from Taylor, has had it easy. So Judgement Day can wait.

Still, is either Waugh’s side or Taylor’s any better than the one that toured England in 1948? With ostensibly the most balanced side of all time, Don Bradman handed a 4-0 defeat to the hosts and exorcised the ghost of Bodyline for good. But does even that team stand a chance against Greg Chappell’s 1975-76 squad?

At a time the Windies had subjugated the cricket world with blistering pace, the younger of the Chappell captains responded in kind. And, midway through the series-which the Aussies eventually won 5-1-one West Indian batsman whom we now know as Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards had to seek "professional" help to overcome the trauma of failure.

Waugh, Taylor, Bradman or Chappell, the extraordinary thing is that Australia have ended the 20th century just as they did the 19th-on a high-in spite of two World Wars, Bodyline, the West Indian pace assault, Kerry Packer and the return of the Proteas: 256 wins in 602 Tests over 100 years is a feat any team would envy. What’s more, as finalists in the last four World Cups, they’ve adjusted to the demands of the game and replaced England as the cricket powerhouse. The first win of the millennium is justly theirs.

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