Can Australia defend their World Cup title- Australia SWOT Analysis - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat
For all these years that the cricket lovers have been tormented by the almost invincible cricketing prowess of the Australian team in the World Cups, it was building towards a catharsis that Australia were finally not in contention for the World Cup title.
But fortunately for some, unfortunately for the others, Australia are back on song, re-armed with the capability of defending their World Cup title, on the back of their recent golden ODI streak. In what has been their best run in ODI cricket since their last World Cup win, Australia have won eight matches in a row, preceeded by only two wins of their last 13 games.
As we moved closer to the announcement of the Australian World Cup squad, whether Steve Smith and David Warner would be reintegrated in the Australian setup or not was the elephant in the room. While most held the belief that they would walk into the side post the one-year ban, there were questions starting to be raised given the terrific run of the Australian ODI team without the duo. As it turned out, both are back in the 15-member squad and practically, it is Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner who have had to make way for them.
"Just so happened that Steven Smith and David Warner were coming back, someone had to miss out. Both are world class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in the IPL," Chairman of Selectors, Trevor Hohns, said.
Peter Handscomb, despite a successful international comeback and his wicketkeeping abilities has missed the bus, just a step short of making the cut. Handscomb sports an impressive average of 43.54 and scored at a strike-rate of 98.15 in 2019, featuring in the list of top 10 run-getters for the year so far.
However, Australia's Chairman of Selectors believes, "Smith can play the same role that Peter excelled at in the batting line-up".
Ashton Turner played a match winning 84-run knock at a strike rate of almost 200 in only his second ODI at Mohali and shot to fame but could not get enough chances after that.
Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh have made the final cut due to their class and recent performances.
Australia's five-pronged pace attack will consist of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff. It was Australia's pace battery which made a huge contribution to their 2015 World Cup win; Mitchell Starc ending as the joint highest wicket-taker along with Trent Boult.
Josh Hazlewood, who was Starc's partner in crime in 2015 and grew into being the No. 1 ODI bowler, has fallen out of favour, with the Aussie camp trying to mollycoddle him for the upcoming Ashes. They have gone with Nathan Coulter-Nile who also has the ability to score some quick-fire runs in the lower order.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa has made a statement by picking up the most wickets for Australia in ODIs this year and would be their lead spinner. After proving his mettle at the Test level, Nathan Lyon has finally broken into the 15-man squad. Lyon has been very economical in the matches against India and Pakistan and would make the final XI on spin-friendly wickets.
In a surprising move, Australia have not picked any backup wicket-keeper in their World Cup squad. They have banked on Alex Carey who is probably expected to bat at No. 6 or 7. The next guy who you can keep wickets is skipper Aaron Finch.
In a long tournament where the team will play at least nine matches, this might prove to be a double-edged sword. Although they do have Travis Head, Matthew Wade and Peter Handscomb as standby players, they cannot be included in the playing XI on immediate notice.
There is little doubt that both Steve Smith and David Warner are world class batsmen and are likely to have a major impact in the World Cup.
With all that they have gone through in the last one year, it is is the perfect time for them to bounce back and compensate to the extent possible by making the bat talk.
Warner would do well to restore his image of the batting bully. Accepted that as opposed to Warner, Smith has not found great form in the Indian Premier League but he will be the linchpin of their middle order. One should remember that Smith has never been a great T20 player and will show his true potential in the 50-over format.
Starc and Richardson, though currently injured, are expected to be fit in time for Australia's first World Cup match on 1st June in Bristol, against Afghanistan.
"Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson have both been named subject to fitness. The advice from the CA medical team is they are progressing well and barring any setbacks will be available for selection ahead of our opening match against Afghanistan on June 1," Hons noted.
If the two don't recover early enough, it can weakness the Australian pace attack. The team has Kane Richardson and Josh Hazlewood as their back ups, both of whom have been named in the Australia A squad and will be waiting in the wings in England but as things stand, the two don't have the same effectiveness as Starc and Jhye Richardson.
Squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa