Andy Bichel played 19 Tests and 67 One Day Internationals (ODIs) for Australia between 1997 to 2004. Bichel was part of the World Cup-winning Australian team of 2003, where his all-round excellence against England set the marker for match-turning performances. He spoke to Shantanu Srivastava on the sidelines of a Power Sportz event in New Delhi.
2003 World Cup was amazing, really, the whole journey... There were some distractions at the start of the tournament. Michael Bevan was injured going into the World Cup, and right on the eve, Shane Warne dropped a bombshell on the team. So, we were pretty shaken going into the first game. Andrew Symonds had a very, very small batting average and very high bowling average, and Ricky Ponting took him to the World Cup, and I think he (Symonds) changed the course of that Cup with the game against Pakistan. He gave us belief for the tournament and I knew there was an opportunity for us.
I finally got an opportunity against England and I was probably the fittest I have been in my career. The kind of averages I had in that World Cup, both with the ball and with the bat, is the stuff you only dream about. In 2019, it could be once again an all-rounder who makes a difference and changes the course of his team to win the trophy. England offers the best of both worlds for players like me who fancy themselves as an all-rounder.
For India, the likes of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav are exciting all-rounders, but it is also about getting the opportunities, something that I did not get enough for Australia. It was hard to get into that Australian team. With Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ponting at the top of the order, it was hard to get to bat at times, and obviously, we had Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in the team as well to take a few wickets away from you.
It's about opportunities for all-rounders and I think if the opportunity is called upon for them to present themselves on the world stage, they'll have to grab that. That will be the measure of the best all-rounders in the world. Most teams today are littered with all-round talent, so it will be interesting to see who stands up for his team.
Coming back to the World Cup, we had a fantastic run in the 2003 edition where we did not lose a single game. One of the reasons is that we had good week-to-week balance. We finished your game and we would go away and train. As a group, we enjoyed each other's company a lot. We celebrated our wins together in a quiet place, away from everyone else, and then started our build-up for the next week. It acted as a catalyst and galvanised us to walk on that big stage. We had 4-5 days break between games, whereas this time, the games are pretty close. So that will be a test for the players and support staff this time.
I played the final of the 2003 World Cup against India. That Indian team had some really, really dangerous players, and to be part of that final was very special.
I believe India did have a chance in the final. Sourav Ganguly had been a great leader for India for many years and he did a good job, but at that point, I suppose there were a few distractions around whether Sachin could be a match-winner. He had a great tournament, but probably didn't get enough support to win the World Cup.
We had a great tournament going into the final. 18 months before the World Cup, we had planned about playing the perfect game, and we did play a perfect game in the final. The environment was really good going into that match; we had won every game and we had good momentum and good belief within the group.
For Ponting, to do what he did in the final was very, very special. I think the fact that McGrath once again got the wicket of Tendulkar gave us a real strong belief after posting 360. The line-up that India had in that team was fantastic. Sachin ended up as Player of the Tournament, and it really was just him between us and the World Cup; he was in that kind of form. He was such an icon in the game, and I think once we got his wicket, it gave us a really strong belief that we are going to win.
There was some rain around as well, and we thought we might have to play again the next day after batting the whole day, but that didn't happen. Virender Sehwag caused us a few issues, but we managed to get him out too. That was a pretty special game and the celebrations we had were very nice.
My favourite World Cup memory though is running out Arvinda de Silva in the semi-final. It was a reverse-turn run-out; something that I had been practising for 12 months behind the scenes. To be able to deliver it in that game and to be able to run de Silva out by that little margin in his last World Cup game was pretty special. It rained, and that probably took the limelight away from the event, but for me, that was something I had worked hard for and did in the end.
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