As Australia rushed the field after Glenn Maxwell brought up the winning runs to secure a sixth World Cup title, one figure was noticeably absent.
Andrew McDonald, Australia’s under-the-radar coach stayed back to allow the players to soak up the moment. This was about them.
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Never one to seek the spotlight, McDonald has been content to plot Australia’s triumph in the background, serving as a cricketing almanack with an answer to every question.
It’s a role that cricket great and former teammate of McDonald, Mike Hussey, believes was crucial to arguably Australia’s greatest World Cup triumph.
Speaking to foxsports.com.au, Hussey dissected McDonald’s impact on the side and broke down how Australia stunned the cricketing word.
THE RISE OF AUSTRALIA’S UNSUNG HERO
Hussey saw first-hand how McDonald, who will miss the T20 series against India to freshen up for the Australian summer, began crafting his coaching skills that would propel him to the top of the international game.
Skills honed while still serving at the crease as a player alongside Hussey in the Big Bash League.
“Just working with him, it probably started at the Sydney Thunder, just seeing him developing as a coach, his philosophy was very clear,” Hussey told foxsports.com.au.
“As a coach, you need to be across absolutely everything. So if they asked something or needed something, he would have the answer ready to go for them.
“He would have taken that responsibility on himself, to do his own study and his own analysis on what he thought they needed to do, coming up with plans for each individual player.”
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Assuming the role as coach in 2022 after the controversial exit of Justin Langer, McDonald has overseen a side that is now celebrated as the ICC Test and ODI World Champions.
Several Australian players over the past year have commended McDonald for the calmness of his approach, no matter the size of the stage, nor the circumstances of a series.
The no panic approach was critical in Australia’s rebound after early losses to India and South Africa in October, but also in the resolve shown in individual matches later in the tournament.
Also crucial was Australia’s ability to execute tactically in matches, with the outstanding bowling performances in the finals against South Africa and India prime examples.
1987 World Cup winning captain Allan Border highlighted the impact of the Australian coaching staff in a column for Code Sports after the six wicket triumph on Sunday.
“They do their homework and it came off in spades,” Border noted of a coaching hierarchy led by McDonald and also featuring Dan Vettori, Andy Flower and Michael DiVenuto.
Hussey, a member of Australia’s 2007 World Cup winning team, is certain the planning by the group was significant to the success.
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“I can certainly look back to us in 2007 and the level of preparation that our team went through was unbelievable,” he said
“There was a lot of responsibility on yourself to make sure that you’re getting everything you possibly need so that when you hit game day, you are 100 per cent ready to go.
“But then, also as a team, the preparation and the groundwork done on the opposition team, who we were playing, how we could beat them, the level of detail was very strong and I have no doubt it would have been very similar (this year) knowing Andrew McDonald.
“He loves that sort of thing. He would never have left a stone unturned when it comes to the preparation side of things.”
Hussey praised the partnership McDonald and Australian captain Pat Cummins have formed and said the skipper delivered in India with his tactical nous, his batting and also his bowling.
“I feel as though for a guy who had question marks over his head leading into the tournament, and even in the early stages of the tournament, I feel as though he has come out of it and really enhanced himself as a leader and a captain,” Hussey said.
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
While planning and attention to detail has been the hallmark of McDonald’s tenure, Hussey said knowing how to tailor it to the player has been just as important.
While some in the dressing room feed off information, not every player thrives on being bombarded with plans heavy on tactical detail.
Man of the match in the final Travis Head is among them, with Australian skipper Cummins noting that the opener excelled when left free to punish opposition attacks with a clarity of thought.
Even Hussey, whose enthusiasm earned him the nickname “Mr Cricket” in the infancy of his professional career, was reluctant to be laden with tactics as his career progressed.
“There’s certainly players like that, just depending on where you’re at, what stage you’re at in your career and your personality type,” Hussey said.
“Some people like less. Andrew Symonds was the same (as Travis). He’d prefer to have less. I must admit that even for me, (it became the same).
“Early in my career, I studied all the opposition. I watched a lot of footage. I was coming up with all these wonderful plans. But then by the end of my career, I was probably the opposite. I didn’t want to overthink it myself.
“But I think with ‘Ronnie’, or Andrew MacDonald, his philosophy is, ‘I’ve got to have all the information there ready to go for anyone who does need it’.”
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THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE DRESSING ROOM
While McDonald was the unsung hero behind the scenes, the players that served as the glue to hold it all together was Mitch Marsh.
Midway through the World Cup, Marsh was given permission to fly home to spend time with his ailing grandfather Ross, who died during the tournament.
The Western Australian returned to strike an unbeaten 177 against Bangladesh and although dismissed for 15 in the final, his intent set the tone at the top of the order.
Hussey was thrilled for his fellow Sandgroper, who has had stints in and outside of the Australian team, saying his influence since regaining his spot should not be underestimated.
“I just know he’s the type of guy in that team who is absolutely loved. He is a man who brings people together,” Hussey said.
“He is a bit like that spiritual sort of player, that guy the culture revolves around. He is so happy for everyone else in the team and he’ll do anything for anyone. They are the ingredients of a guy that you want right in the middle of that team.
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“I don’t think you can’t underestimate something like that, particularly in a place like India, particularly when you are zero and two and staring down the barrel a bit. You need characters who are going to hold everyone else together.”
Marsh has now played 35 Tests and featured in Australia’s 2015 and 2023 ODI World Cup triumphs, along with the T20 World Cup success in the Middle East in 2021. But Hussey believes the 32-year-old’s best is still to come.
“It’s been great to see his game go to another level. He’s playing with a real confidence in himself and that belief in himself that he can dominate at this level. And he certainly is still not the finished product,” he said.
“I think he can get better. He will keep evolving and keep learning as he goes along, so he is a very important member from both a skill perspective and also from a cultural perspective for that team.”
A VIEW TO THE FUTURE
Hussey said Australia’s ODI side has reached an interesting juncture following the glory of Ahmedadbad
Champion opener David Warner has flagged his intention to carry on into the future in short-form cricket
By the next ODI World Cup in 2027, the majority of the Australian squad which succeeded in India over the past six weeks will be in their mid-30s, with Warner a greybeard at 41.
Father Time waits for no athlete and at some stage fresher faces including Cameron Green, who performed well when called on late in the tournament, will seize their chances.
Hussey, whose international career did not begin until he was 30, hopes younger players emerge, if only to ensure there is a healthy competition for spots in the Australian side.
“I can’t talk for David Warner or Mitchell Starc or anyone else, but from my perspective, I was definitely aware of the next generation coming through. But that was almost like a motivating force for me,” he said.
“I know they are your teammates, they’re there with the same country, but you almost see them as competitors a bit as well. You’re fighting for your spot.
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“I didn’t want to wish it away anytime soon and I certainly didn’t want to give the next generation an opportunity before I was ready to go.”
He believes Green, who surrendered his Test spot to Marsh midway through the Ashes, will improve from experiencing a World Cup campaign primarily as a squad member.
The all-rounder played three matches during the series, finishing with an innings of 47 against England in the latter stages of a tournament that shapes as a valuable experience.
“I think it will be massive for Cam Green,” Hussey said.
“The amount of cricket he has been exposed to, the amount of travel he has been exposed to, is really difficult. And we forget he is still quite a young player who has not played a lot of cricket either.
“Having gone through that and built that resilience, I think it will only help his game. It might not be initially, we might not see the benefits straight away … but it will make him a hardened, seasoned player who knows what it takes to play and perform well on the road.”