Pat Cummins has hailed the influence of Glenn Maxwell on his Australia side ahead of Thursday night's Cricket World Cup semi-final against South Africa. Cummins' men go into the clash against the Proteas in Kolkata on the back of a seven-game winning streak, with their last defeat coming against the South Africans early in the group stages.
Maxwell was rested for Australia's final group stage win over Bangladesh after his record-breaking heroics against Afghanistan - the 35-year-old blasting a stunning 201 not out despite playing through severe cramps that saw him effectively batting on one leg. Cummins combined with Maxwell for an eighth-wicket ODI record stand of 202 runs and says having the superstar all-rounder in his side is a "complete luxury" for the Aussies.
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"As a team, you grow an extra leg because you feel like you can win a match from anywhere and having someone like Maxi in your team is just a complete luxury," the Aussie captain said. "He's a superstar, he's a freak."
Forecast storms for the Kolkata area threaten to ruin Australia's World Cup hopes, with rain predicted for both Thursday and the reserve day on Friday. If the match can't be completed on either day then South Africa would progress through to the final because they finished above the Aussies in the group standings.
For Cummins and the Aussies though, the full focus is on maintaining their impressive run of form and exacting revenge over the Proteas, who cantered to a 134-run win earlier in the tournament. Cummins insists it's a much different Aussie side since that early humiliation and says Australia's World Cup-winning pedigree gives them the edge over the South Africans.
"What helps us is we've got a lot of guys that have been in this situation before that have won one-day World Cup, T20 World Cup, various other tournaments in big moments," Cummins said. The Aussie skipper is one of seven Australian players who've tasted World Cup success on two occasions, with David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitch Marsh, Maxwell, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all part of the 2015 World Cup-winning squad as well as the T20 victory two years ago.
South Africa also beat the Aussies 3-2 in a pre-tournament series but Cummins is adamant their impressive recent record over his side will count for little. "South Africa are a team we've played quite a lot and know quite well but this week it's probably going to be quite different to say the South African series that we just played against them a couple of months ago," he added.
Proteas reminded of World Cup 'chokers' tag
The Proteas have earned an unwanted reputation as World Cup chokers, with their unthinkable capitulation against the Aussies in the 1999 World Cup the most famous of such incidents. Referring to how Australia knocked out South Africa in the 1999 semi-finals after the chaos of Allan Donald's last-over run-out at Edgbaston, Cummins was happy to remind the Proteas of their past failings.
"It's kind of folklore, isn't it? I've seen that replay heaps of times," Cummins said, before reminding his opponents about his own country's history of success. The Aussies have won the World Cup on a record five occasions.
"We feel lucky that we've been in these situations quite a bit, a lot of our players. So, you know what it takes, but also, you're not really weighed down by history," he added. You get more excited about the challenge and just get stuck into what needs to be done.
"So, hard to speak on their behalf, but I do know each World Cup, it does seem to be the story that South Africa haven't quite achieved what they set out to do." The Aussie captain says his side has "come a long way since the start of the tournament" and has gotten progressively better every game.
"We are a bit more aggressive with our batting, we are taking the game on a bit more. With the bowling, I think we've just got better and better in all phases. "We've obviously played a lot of cricket over the last month and it just feels like everyone knows their role and it's starting to click."
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