Five-time champion Australia looks to put its tough years behind in the World Cup.
And yet, it was no surprise when it strolled to a 111-run win in that game. As Clarke made his return from a hamstring injury, the team was so well built that the only man who could make way for him was stand-in skipper George Bailey, who was Australia’s highest run scorer in ODI cricket in the preceding three years.
It is hence rather ironic that rarely has an Australian cricket team looked as vulnerable as the men’s side has in the years, since its success in 2015. But it has enjoyed a revival of sorts since the turn of the year, beating India and Pakistan away from home.
Strengths: A common factor in Australia’s recent spate of victories has been that its key batsmen have found their groove. Captain Aaron Finch was imperious against Pakistan, with totals of 116, 153*, 90, 39 and 53 while Usman Khawaja managed scores of 24, 88, 0, 62 and 98. Steve Smith was impressive in the warm-up matches against New Zealand. While David Warner may not have done as much in Australia colours, his tally of 692 runs in 12 matches in the Indian Premier League should be enough to make him a threat.
Weaknesses: Coach Justin Langer will however be grappling with the fact that while the team has great individuals, it is one that is untested. Not too long ago, an Australian ODI side with a core made up of Smith, Warner, Mitchell Starc and Finch were going around the world losing series after series. Moreover, Khawaja’s recent success has been as an opener but the return of Warner means that the latter could be preferred at the top of the order.
Opportunities: The defending champion is being termed favourite behind England and India to lift the trophy. A good performance at the WC with this new persona might just set an example for future generations of cricketers from the country.
Threats: It has to be wary of the hostile English crowds. Langer has already spoken of how Smith and Warner cannot possibly go through worse than what they have in the past 12 months but the coaching staff will have ‘to care for them’ in their long England tour.
Squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner and Adam Zampa.