Bleary-eyed Australians celebrate World Cup win
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Australian players sheltered behind dark glasses Monday at a public reception the day after their victory over New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup final.
Captain Michael Clarke carried the World Cup trophy and, as the players mounted the stage in front of thousands of fans at open-air Federation Square, they smiled wanly and waved to the crowd.
Clarke was asked what the over-riding emotion was on the day after Australia had achieved its fifth World Cup and he grinned and said: ''We're all a bit hung over to be honest.''
It had been a late night, and an even earlier morning. Australian newspapers and websites ran photographs Monday of coach Darren Lehmann and players, still in their team uniforms, holding the trophy on a hotel balcony as the sun rose over Melbourne.
After speeches from the Australian deputy prime minister and other government dignitaries on Monday, Clarke told fans how vital their support had been in the team's victory. He said the Australian side had embraced the pressure and expectation of playing at home and had executed their game plan calmly and efficiently throughout the tournament, culminating in its seven-wicket win Sunday night at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The players then left the stage to mingle with the crowd, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
New Zealand will have its own, more muted celebration on Tuesday with a welcome home parade in downtown Auckland. The parade was planned before the outcome of the final was known but with the understanding it would go ahead whatever of the outcome of the final.
Organizers believed the New Zealand team had done enough, in winning all eight games leading into the final and in qualifying for the final itself, to make a celebration of its achievements a necessity.
That decision reflected the mixture of mild disappointment and pride with which New Zealanders viewed Sunday's loss. They weren't able to enjoy a fairytale finish to the New Zealand campaign but could still celebrate the quality of the team's performances and behavior leading into and after the final.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited the team in its locker room after the final to express his pride in its performance.
''Win, lose, or draw I was always going to go and have a drink with them and congratulate them,'' Key said.
While New Zealand couldn't win the World Cup on Sunday, it may have helped to save the tournament.
Traditional 50-overs cricket has lost some of its popularity in recent years with the rise of the shorter, Twenty20 format and with a proliferation of test matches between the world's strongest teams.
But the manner in which Australia and New Zealand, especially, but all 14 teams at the World Cup played the one-day game won back fans whose interest in the format might have dwindled.
More than one million fans passed through the turnstiles at 49 World Cup matches in Australia and New Zealand over the six weeks of the tournament, including 93,013 at the final - the largest crowd for a single day of cricket in Australia's history.
''It was a wonderful event with many thrilling highs and magic moments which will live long in the memory,'' International Cricket Council chairman Narayanaswami Srinivasan said Monday. ''Australia has set a new benchmark for limited-overs cricket.''
New Zealand's adventurous style of play, allied to its essential modesty, also captured the imagination of cricket fans throughout the world. Australia carried the hopes of its nation into Sunday's final but New Zealand carried the support of fans from other teams which had failed to make it to the championship match.
Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was accused after the match of ''sledging'' or verbally abusing New Zealand players. He later admitted he had done so, saying it was because the New Zealanders are ''too nice.''
''You know what? They deserved it,'' Haddin said. ''They were that nice to us (when the teams met in a pool match) in New Zealand and we were that uncomfortable. I said in the team meeting `I can't stand for this anymore. We're going at them as hard as we can'.''
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson refused to apologize for New Zealand's niceness.
''Different teams play the game different ways,'' Hesson said. ''We are pretty proud of the way we go about things.''