MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s World Cup squad will stop at Gallipoli in Turkey on the way to England to draw inspiration at the World War One battle site where thousands of Australian soldiers died in the ill-fated campaign.
The stopover comes nearly a year after Australia coach Justin Langer took his squad on a Western Front tour of historic WWI sites in France and Belgium.
“We took the boys to the Western Front last year on the way to England and we’ve had a theme ‘From Lille to Lord’s’ ever since, with the World Cup final at Lord’s on July 14,” Langer told local radio station SEN.
“It’s very sobering, and it was an incredible life experience for the boys, and also it gelled the team together with different experiences and interpretations of our history.
“Where we are right now, on the way to England for a long campaign representing our country, hopefully (Gallipoli) will be a real catalyst for gelling together and success.”
Some 8,700 Australians were among the more than 56,000 Allied soldiers killed in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign which was intended to open up access to the Black Sea for Allied navies but ended up a bloody stalemate against Turkish forces.
While the battle was an unmitigated failure, the sacrifices of Australian and New Zealand troops became ingrained in the national identity of both countries.
It will be the first trip to Gallipoli by the national cricket team since Steve Waugh led his side there in 2001 ahead of winning the Ashes against England.
Langer was part of the 2001 Ashes victory but missed the Gallipoli trip as he was not part of the one-day squad that preceded the test series. He said it was “one of the regrets of (his) career”.
Waugh wrote in his 2005 book “Out of My Comfort Zone” that the visit had a “profound effect” on his squad before they went on to dominate the one-day series and Ashes.
Aaron Finch’s Australia wrapped up a three-match series of unofficial World Cup warmups against a depleted New Zealand side with a five-wicket win in Brisbane on Friday.
Former captain Steve Smith, back in Australian colours after a 12-month ball-tampering ban, scored 91 not out in an encouraging performance before England but also threw a scare through the camp.
When running for a single in the 32nd over, his outstretched bat dug into the turf on the edge of the wicket and appeared to jar the right elbow which underwent surgery earlier in the year.
Although in discomfort, Smith was given extra strapping by the team doctor and batted on.
After Gallipoli, Australia head to England where they have arranged an unofficial practice match with West Indies on May 22, ahead of sanctioned World Cup warmups against England on May 25 and Sri Lanka on May 27.
Australia’s World Cup opener is against Afghanistan on July 1 in Bristol.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Andrew Both)