Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood rolled their luggage through Gate B of Sydney Airport’s International Terminal and were promptly swarmed by photographers.
The World Cup champions had touched down after a gruelling two-month tour of India, ending a winter campaign that also featured the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the World Test Championship final and the Ashes.
Blurry-eyed with unkempt beards and ruffled hair, the two exhausted cricketers fronted the pack of journalists for their final media commitment before a well-earned break.
Cummins, donning his Clark Kent glasses, couldn’t stop beaming.
“I think we’ll be smiling for a fair while,” he declared.
“Every half an hour so, you kind of remember that you just won a World Cup and get excited all over again.
“We’re still buzzing.”
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A couple of days earlier, Australia defied the odds to topple an unbeaten Indian outfit in front of 92,453 fans at Narendra Modi Stadium, becoming the first nation to win a Men’s World Cup away from home in 16 years.
It comes after the Australians lifted the World Test Championship mace and retained the Ashes urn on foreign soil in a legacy-defining year.
“They have created their own legacy,” Cummins said of his teammates.
“You only get one chance every four years and especially playing somewhere like India, it’s hard.
“To be pitted up against the rest of the world and come away with a medal, it doesn’t get any better than that. Adding to that an away Ashes series, a World Test Championship, we couldn’t have planned for much better.”
Cummins’ captaincy drew the ire of fans and pundits after Australia lost its opening two group-stage matches against India and South Africa by heavy margins. One week into the tournament, the five-time champions were reeling at the bottom of the ladder, essentially needing to win seven consecutive matches to ensure qualification for the knockouts.
“It almost became sudden death,” Cummins confessed.
“As captain, there’s always things you do that sometimes don’t pay off, and sometimes they do pay off.
“We thought we pretty much had to be flawless from there on in just to make the semis, and we pretty much were.
“We started to find ways to win, even when we weren’t having our best day.
“The belief never left, even at the start we knew we hadn’t played our best, but we kind of knew once we clicked we could take on anyone, and that proved to be the case.”
For Hazlewood, the World Cup triumph comes as a form of redemption after being omitted from Australia’s squad for the 2019 tournament in England. The New South Welshman, who also lifted the coveted trophy in 2015, has been Australia’s most consistent white-ball pace bowler over the past four years, and played an integral role in the semi-final against South Africa and the tournament finale in Ahmedabad.
“Two from two,” Cummins joked.
Hazlewood opined: “World Cups are every four years, it’s pretty special.
“The last few months seem to go pretty quickly, it’s a bit of a blur as well. We put ourselves in a tough situation early and then I think it brought the best out and pushed us into a corner and away we went.”
Australian opener David Warner, who celebrated his 37th birthday earlier this year, hinted he might still be targeting the 2027 World Cup in South Africa. Hazlewood wasn’t making any promises.
“Where’s the next one? South Africa? That might suit us,” Hazlewood pondered.
“Four years is a long time, so we’ll see.”
Unfortunately, there’s no rest for the weary. Cummins and Hazlewood, who played all 11 of Australia’s World Cup games, get a couple of weeks to recharge the batteries before the home Test summer gets underway against Pakistan at Perth Stadium next month.
“It’s been a big year. We’ve spent about six months on the road,” Cummins lamented.
“Honestly, I have not thought any further than this. We will saviour this for a long time. I’m sure the stories will keep rolling on for a while.
“The home summer is always huge, so we’ve got a couple of weeks to regroup and get together in Perth. The majority the ODI team is the same as the Test team, so it’ll be good to go and see everyone again in a couple of weeks.”
Before Cummins could escape from the terminal, he agreed to take a few selfies with fans, including a Sydney Airport staff member. The 30-year-old is yet to lose a home Test match as captain, a record he’ll be eager to uphold over the coming couple of months.
Several members of Australia’s World Cup squad, including Ahmedabad hero Travis Head, remained in India for a five-match T20 series against the finalists, with the first game getting underway in Visakhapatnam on Thursday evening.
Sean Abbott, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marnus Stoinis, Adam Zampa and Tanveer Sangha also stayed behind for the bilateral series, which marks the beginning of Australia’s preparation for next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States of America.
Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade will lead the Australians, while all-rounder Aaron Hardie was an eleventh-hour inclusion after Warner withdrew from the T20 leg of the tour.