One of Australia’s most memorable triumphs at a major tournament could have had a vastly different outcome had the final been played today, according to India legend Sachin Tendulkar.
Led by a stunning 140no from skipper Ricky Ponting, Australia stormed to their third World Cup title in 2003 with their 2-359 proving far too many after Glenn McGrath removed Tendulkar in the first over of India’s reply.
While chasing down a total in excess of 300 has become commonplace in recent years, Australia’s tally in the ’03 Cup decider in Johannesburg was then the sixth-highest score in ODI history.
Remarkably, that total of 359 has been surpassed on 65 occasions in the ensuing 14 years, underlining how much the 50-over format has changed since the first ODI (in which sides batted for 60 overs each) was played almost 50 years ago.
It’s a trend that’s left Tendulkar pondering whether another World Cup title might have been added to his glittering cricket resume had that match been played in different circumstances.
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“I feel if we were allowed to play that match today, the players will approach that game differently,” Tendulkar said this week.
“We were all charged up, we went out to field and right from over one, it was that big moment, (we were) unbelievably charged up.
“We have on a number of occasions got 325-340 runs and that is because the format has changed, the rules have changed a little bit.
“The conditions have also changed (from) what we got there, I just feel the mindset has changed because of introduction of T20 and the calculations are different.
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“(If the) same players are given an opportunity, we will approach it (that game) differently.”
While scoring at six-an-over for 50 overs once represented a challenging proposition for international batsmen, totals of 400 have fast become the new ODI benchmark.
Since the famous South Africa-Australia run-fest at the Wanderers in 2006, three years after Ponting’s men had overcome India in ’03 Cup final at the same venue, where close to 900 runs were stacked up between the two teams, the 400-run mark has since been passed 16 more times in a little more than a decade.
Speaking during the 2015 World Cup, a high-scoring extravaganza where 29 totals of more than 300 and three of more than 400 were posted, former Australia batsman Michael Hussey suggested ODI cricket had shifted to fulfil the public’s growing appetite for boundaries.
“Fans and broadcasters and administrators want to see excitement,” Hussey told cricket.com.au at the time. “They want to see fours and sixes being hit.
“They don’t want to see batsmen struggling and dot balls, plays and misses and things like that. I’m sure they’d love to see the wickets, but maybe the balance has gone too far.
“Here in Australia and New Zealand conditions are pretty good, so if you’ve got good conditions it seems 300 is the par score.
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“When one-day internationals started, 200 was a defendable total.
“When I was playing the benchmark was 250 or 260 and it seems to have increased again.
“It’s gone up to 300, maybe 280 to 300 is a par score these days, which is amazing.”
Ponting’s effort in that ’03 final, along with Damen Martyn’s knock of 88no while batting with a broken finger, nonetheless remain two of the more unforgettable performances in Australian gold.
"It had taken me about 70 balls to get to 50," Ponting reflected on the Howie Games podcast earlier this year. "And because the game was so under control and we were scoring quickly, I wanted to make sure I was there at the end.
"The 12th man came out and I said, 'Tell the boys to strap the seatbelts on, I'm gonna go flat-out from now and see what happens'.
"And I got most of them in the middle from there on in.
"As the captain, it was my turn to stand up and I walked off 140 not out, having shared (an Australian record) partnership with Damien Martyn at the time and posted (nearly) 360 in a World Cup final.
"You're walking off there and you're thinking, 'Well that's done, game over – we've stood up here'."