Australians are not only renowned for their fighting qualities but also for their perseverance over the decades. Just when one thought that their slide had begun following the sandpapergate incident, the men from Down Under rose from the ashes.
Coming out of a poor streak of winning just two matches in 13 outings, they have won eight matches in a row heading for their World Cup title defence in England. The announcement closer to the World Cup of stalwarts Steve Smith and David Warner (who were in the eye of the storm and banned for a year) joining the squad has bolstered the side further. More importantly, it would have increased worries and induced fear in the minds of their opponents within their group.
One has to feel for Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner, who had to make way for the duo in the squad, but that’s what the competition is all about. Smith and Warner come with that immense reputation behind them and the duo look hungrier than ever, especially Warner who has been at his ruthless best in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he amassed 692 runs in 12 matches.
Australia’s pace attack in English conditions can be lethal: Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff and the last-minute inclusion of Kane Richardson can rattle any world class batting side.
Starc was the key component of the 2015 World Cup winning squad and one would expect him to replicate the same wicket-taking ability. He had finished as the joint highest wicket-taker along with New Zealand's Trent Boult last time round and was also adjudged the Player of the Tournament in 2015.
With the new fast bowling sensation Jhye Richardson, sidelined with injury and Josh Hazlewood cocooned for the Ashes, the onus will be on Starc and Coulter-Nile to lead the Aussie bowling attack. The latter has built a reputation of a quality death-overs bowler. Their spin department also looks solid with the presence of Nathon Lyon and Adam Zampa.
While Zampa has been a revelation in the spin department and has taken 18 wickets in 11 matches in the 2019, Lyon hasn’t run riot. He, however, got some crucial breakthrough in the series against India and Pakistan but more importantly, has kept the run-rate under check.
With so many options at his disposal, coach Justin Langer finds himself in a tricky situation to get the right combination going.
Smith and Warner’s inclusion means disturbing the winning combination that has peaked well with time. Usman Khawaja has regained form at the top, but he might have to leave his position to Warner.
Langer is tossed up with the dilemma of choosing either Aaron Finch or Khawaja to open with Warner. The Aussies have also not picked up a backup wicketkeeper and is only going in with Alex Carey, who will bat lower down. This could be a risk considering the long tournament, but they do have Finch, who can be quite handy behind the stumps, if the need arises.
This tournament serves as a huge opportunity for the fallen heroes Smith and Warner to redeem themselves. There is very little doubt they will not be targeted by the crowd but the high profile stars have to walk in believing that their batting prowess can erase the memories of their wrongdoings. Though Smith wasn’t in great form in the IPL, he has always been a force in the ODIs. It will be interesting to see if he and Warner can regain their lost pride with an impressive show.
With Jhye being ruled out with a shoulder injury, Western Australian quick Kane, who shares the same surname Richardson, has been tossed up with a huge opportunity. The 28-year-old cannot get a better platform than this to showcase his talent.
Starc has a troubled history of injuries for a while now and it will be interesting to see if he can keep his framework together all through the tournament especially with in-form Jhye being ruled out.
Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell can be destructive on their day with the bat but they have repeatedly lacked consistence. Maxwell, following a major slump in the form, turned things around right in time to confirm his berth with a fine show in the series against Pakistan. Marsh has lost his place in the Test team and it could well be the end of his career in the longer version.
The 35-year-old will be under pressure to prove his worth from the start at the World Cup.
ICC ODI ranking: 6
Appearance: 1975 (Runner-up), 1979, 1983, 1987 (Champions), 1992, 1996 (Runners-Up), 1999 (Champions), 2003 (Champions), 2007 (Champions), 2011 (Quarter-Finals), 2015 (Champions).
Squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa.