Defending champions Australia opened their World Cup campaign on June 1 against Afghanistan with a comfortable 7-wicket win with almost 100 balls to spare. This was followed by a match against the pace and bounce of West Indies, who reduced them to 38/4 and 78/5. Yet Australia, displaying typical grit won and it is astonishing that in World Cup history, the Australians have been less than 50/4 fivetimes and they have won all five matches.
Aussies next played India and they were batted out of the match after India, led by their top 3, Shikhar, Rohit and Virat, and aided by muscular displays of Pandya and Dhoni put up 352. Aussies probably were a bit too slow initially and the huge target left them with 36 runs short.
Despite the loss to India, the Aussie team looks quite settled. They next play Pakistan on June 12 and thereafter after facing Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, their match against the hosts and pre-tournament favorites, England, is on June 25, before they sign off against New Zealand and South Africa.
Let’s take a look at the composition of the Australian team which is as follows;
Batsmen– Aaron Finch (Captain), David Warner, Steve Smith, Usmaan Khwaja and Shaun Marsh
Batsmen-Keeper- Alex Carey
All-rounders– Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis with both being batting all-rounders. Nathan Coultner-Nile (NCN) is the bowling all-rounder and Mitchell Starc can pack a wallop as well. Imagine their batting strength that their bowling all-rounder NCN scores 92 at Number 8.
Spinners- Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon.
Fast bowlers– Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coultner-Nile and Jason Behrendorff
Nothing succeeds like success and no one is more successful than Australia in the world cup. They have won five world cups, including three in a row; they have also reached four finals in a row, and all three are standalone records. They have a strong batting line up and a handy attack and very importantly, they seem to be peaking at the right time, the loss to India notwithstanding. The 0-5 loss to England was certainly bad and they seemed out of sorts. However, Coach Justin Langer certainly brought about a transformation and the Aussies defeating India 3-2 on tour and winning 5-0 against Pakistan firmly showed they are back in business. This quiet confidence of past history and good current form will give the Aussies firm belief that they will go deep in the tournament and maybe retain the Cup.
Notably, Smith and Warner were not in the team recently as they served bans for their role in ball-tampering. Their lack of match practice in the 50 over format however has not proved an issue. Of course they played the IPL, but it remained to be seen whether they can make the quick transition from club T20 to International ODI, that too the world cup; but being quality players they have got it right. Crowds booing them has proved disappointing and in this context, Virat Kohli’s request to the crowds to desist can be seen as an act of a statesman.
A special mention of Alex Carey, the wicket-keeper, who has shown he is a rare talent when he gave India a fright with his 25-ball 50, the quickest half century so far in World Cup 2019. He could be Australia’s surprise weapon at Number 7.
The main opportunity for their opponents is that the Aussie bowling can be uni-dimensional as was seen in India piling up 352 against them. The Aussie middle order can also be susceptible to spin. In the 0-5 loss to England, one of the main reasons was the success of spin twins Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid who took 12 wickets each . The opponents, most of whom have got good spinners, will seek to take advantage of this perceived susceptibility. Peter Handscomb will feel unlucky to miss out on making the Aussie squad as this fine player of spin was not only in good form, but had adjusted to the Aussie playing 11. Australia has a terrific replacement in Steve Smith of course, and one can only say “hard luck mate” to Peter.
Overall, Australia is not just one of the contenders, but a favorite to retain the world cup as well.
Don’t get misled by their loss to India. They are very much one of the top favorites to enter the semi-finals and thereafter at the death end of the tournament, they will count on their guts, gumption and fighting spirit to sail through and lift the World Cup.