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Australian cricket's turning point

On the 30th anniversary of their famous Eden Gardens triumph, Allan Border and Steve Waugh reflect on the epic 1987 World Cup

Thirty years ago, a group of unfancied and inexperienced Australian cricketers arrived in the subcontinent for what many thought would be a futile quest to win the nation's first ever World Cup.

Australian cricket was at a low ebb, having struggled to recover from the retirements of Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee following the 1984 Sydney Test.

Under the leadership of Kim Hughes and then Allan Border, the Aussies had seemingly lurched from one loss to another in the mid-1980s as the mighty West Indies bounced and blasted their way to the unofficial title of the best team in the world.

It was no great surprise that Border's 14-man squad that travelled to India and Pakistan for the 1987 World Cup was dismissed as nothing more than a group of young and largely unknown players, most of whom were in the fledgling stages of what would turn out to be successful careers.

So when the Aussies won seven of their eight matches, including a tense victory in the final against England at the Eden Gardens, a sense of serendipity surrounded Border's team.

"We were certainly one of the unfancied teams going into the tournament, but it was just one those times when everything fell into place," Border said recently.

"We played against India - the host nation - in our very first game of the tournament and at the end of our innings ... in the last few overs there was a high ball hit over Ravi Shastri's head on the boundary.

"It was right in front of our change rooms and we saw that the ball actually went for six, but Ravi got up signalling four so it was given as four at the time and we were jumping up and down saying 'it was six'.

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Border is chaired off by Jones and McDermott with the World Cup trophy // Getty

"So our score was 268 and our manager - a bloke called Alan Crompton - said he wasn't going to have that so he went up to see the match referee Hanif Mohammad who said 'yes, I saw that incident and I'm going to change the score'.

"So our score went from 268 to 270 and India made 269 in reply.

"That was the start of the tournament and it just built from that situation.

"If we had lost that first game then who knows, but we built momentum from there and it was a great tournament."

Having beaten India on home soil in the group stage, the Aussies then went on to knock over Pakistan in the semi-final at a stunned Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, inspired by five wickets from 22-year-old Craig McDermott.

The tournament was somewhat of a breakout period for both McDermott and allrounder Steve Waugh, who was also just 22 at the time.

The pair were the standouts in a young squad who, apart from Border and veteran spinner Peter Taylor, were all aged in their 20s.

"We trained exceptionally hard under (coach) Bob Simpson and Allan Border," Waugh told cricket.com.au.

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Steve Waugh cuts for a boundary during the 1987 tournament // Getty

"It really was the start of the new regime, new professionalism.

"We won the first game in Madras by one run, I bowled the last over so for me it was a special moment and I almost came of age as a one-day cricketer that I could perform under pressure.

"It really was the catalyst for turning things around and to win on the subcontinent – when you look back – was an amazing achievement for a team that were rank outsiders."

Having gone some way to erasing the dark memories of the mid 1980s, Border's victorious side went on to lose just one of their next eight Tests before they were once again humbled by the mighty Windies in the summer of 1988-89.

But just six months later, the Aussies stunned England 4-0 to win back the Ashes and set Australian cricket on course for an unprecedented era of dominance that would include four more World Cup triumphs, including the last tournament, played on home soil.

"We probably didn't realise it was a turning point for Australian cricket at the time," Border told cricket.com.au.

"We knew that the momentum was building, we had been in India the previous year, which was the year of the famous tied Test match, so we had a good feel about where the group was going as a cricket team.

"And then it started to really come good in 1987 ... I’d been around for a few years at that point, but I knew that we had a few young players who were ready to expand their cricket.

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The victorious Australia squad on the Eden Gardens outfield after their victory // Getty

"So it was just one of those wonderful six-week periods when everything came together.

"The selectors had done a great job getting that group together.

"We all got on well, had a great work ethic, Bob Simpson had become the coach and he was a stickler for all those basic drills so we were as well prepared as any side in that tournament, even though there were far more fancied sides.

"And with those skills that we were able to bring to the table but hadn’t been unearthed yet I was quietly confident that we would do well, and then all of a sudden it started to kick into place.

"It was a wonderful time.

'87 World Cup winners handed medals

"We had a very young, inexperienced cricket team and to go over there and win the competition was a dream come true.

"We had come out of three years of struggles and that was the catalyst for some good times ahead.

"We prepared really well, we were a young, enthusiastic side and we weren’t rated so we just went about our business and flew under the radar a little bit."