A World Cup is the culmination of four years of preparation for all countries. The fulcrum of ODI cricket, plans are cleverly set, players given experience, and chances taken. All of that work for two months of cricket, which can end in a flash.
Australia are the number one ODI team in the world. In the years since the World Cup's last edition (which, incidentally, they won. And the two before that) they've crushed all before them, and were expected to do so again this time around.
Australian teams are expected to win World Cups. Anything less than this is regarded as failure. An indifferent 3rd position in the groups, followed by a fairly toothless defeat in the quarter finals is not what these 15 men were flown out to achieve.
After the horrendous flogging the selectors received in the wake of the Ashes, Australian test cricket is likely to get a vast makeover in the coming months. And this ODI side, who had been single handedly maintaining the honour of Australian cricket in the wake of the decline of the test outfit, have been shown to not be the all-conquering megaside that they'd been touted as being.
Shaun Tait can't bowl two balls in the same spot, and can't bowl more than two overs in a row without needing a sit down and a nap. Mitchell Johnson's radar is more wonky than Heather Mills playing Twister. Steve Smith is neither an international batsman or a bowler, yet he is told to be both. Jason Krejza (who admittedly is Australia's seventh choice spinner) hasn't looked like he should have been anywhere near a World Cup. And Ricky Ponting's ever-increasing strops this World Cup hardly inspire confidence that he should be a leader of these men.
Whenever cricket teams fail abjectly, fingers are pointed, and heads roll. While Australia do actually have a pretty good ODI side, they just haven't performed anywhere near the level required at this World Cup, and given the apocalyptic feel around Australian cricket at the moment, we could be seeing an end of an era.
White, Haddin, Ponting, Lee and the Husseys are all on the wrong side of 30, and could be put out to pasture. While I'm not advocating a vast and rapid change, the fact that Ferguson, Paine, Marsh and Khawaja are all ready to fill the batting breach (plus a whole host of young fast bowlers) mean that rapid wholesale change can be eased by the fact that ready made replacements are knocking on the door.
The all conquering Australian side who won three successive World Cups have gone, their reign of terror very much a thing of the past. The four year World Cup cycle has also finished, but a new one starts straight away. Whether this Australian team gets a fresh cycle remains to be seen.