It has been more than 5 World Cups and decades that I have been following Cricket and there has been not a single instance where the Aussies haven’t been tagged as favourites. Have they justified this tag? Hell yes, Champions 3 consecutive times and finalists once! But post WC11 analysis, the belief that the champions are now long gone and would not return to be tagged as Champions seemed a reality. But known to have thick skin and a never-say-never attitude, they built a team out of nothing especially with their legends hanging their boots one after the other while giving the youngsters enough time to learn and absorb from their vast and rich experience. And with the World Cup set to be played in their backyard, quick pitches with a healthy bounce, the Kangaroos have once again knocked a critics door to be tagged as favourites once again.
So what makes this team such a formidable one is their domestic circuit which churns out one talented youngster after the other. Imagine a setup where an out of form player is sent back to the domestic circuit in between the on-going series to get back his rhythm and he can come back to actually help their team lift the tri-series trophy (Read: Mitchell Starc). What this says is the Boards ability to accept weakness and to weed it out immediately than to provide a flubber of chances or a player being left out totally from the squad. This speaks a lot of “Merit” as a parameter to make it to the national side and not just a “Quota” based selection.
“Gilly-Haydo” aka the Australian “Jai-Veeru” are quite well known to have destroyed bowling units and set up matches beautifully for Australia during their “Invincible” phase. When they retired, the big Australian wish could be to find an apt replacement and they have it in the form of “Warner-Finch”. With 1136 runs in calendar year 2014 in the Test Arena was not anyone would have foreseen when Warner hit the International Circuit with a care-free, explosive T-20 attitude in 2011 riding on inconsistency. But sheer hard-work, patience and efforts of the support staff have made Warner a well settled, feared batsman at the top of the line-up. The role Finch has taken up is that of a former Warner where he can go berserk and score at brisk pace to let Warner settle in his own without much pressure. One of them clicks and the Job is half done for the middle order which follows.
Shane Watson was surely destined to become yet another great all-rounder while we were yet in 2011 and very few would have questioned this notion as well. Injuries and inconsistent performances have unfortunately stopped him from crossing the line but on his day, he could make the opposition cry not only with the bat with the bowl as well. Smith surely has become the “Next Big Thing” as far as the Aussies are concerned with his ability to play both spin and pace, the appetite to play big knocks, consistency against the best bowling attack and more importantly the confidence in his abilities. If there is one man who could help Australia cross the line, it has to be this man batting at No.4. With a silent assassin in the form of their Captain Bailey who can hold the team when in distress and a Maxwell who knows but one way to play which can take the game away in a blink and a fit Clarke drafted in as well, they have a solid middle order which is quite reliable. With the experience of Haddin behind the stumps as well his ability to hold his guard and hit a few out of the park, a settled Aussie batting line-up is what my vote would be.
Give a team the privilege to have a bowling all rounder who can score at a strike rate of 200 at will and that too with high consistency, who could bowl at the death, has an armour filled with a variety of slower ones and who could put the brakes on the opposition in the middle order, they will happily trade a million for it. What if you could give the same team a similar bowling all-rounder whose best friend is a delivery racing at 150 kmph, could swing either ways, could hit the batsman’s helmet as well, could break his nose if manages to slip past the grill, who could make everyone dance to his tune and could hit the ball long and clear? The team will laugh it off as a dream-come-true. Surely, the Aussies won’t laugh it off as they have Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson at this trump slot, who gives the team that perfect balance and a tag which says they indeed bat deep. If they prefer to play an additional all-rounder to bat further deep, Mitch Marsh could be that answer who could chip in with his 120kmph deliveries and get through them pretty quickly.
Mitchell Starc’s recent heroics are enough to tell us that he is well prepared for the upcoming World Cup to make life difficult for the opposition batsman with his in-swinging yorkers at an unmatched pace. Line and length are not alien to this man as well and can well put brakes in the death overs, which often breaks the opposition confidence. To support him is the consistent 150kmph lad, Pat Cummins, who is struggling a bit with his line and length but can surprise the batsman eventually. Josh Hazlewood is their lethal new “Ryan Harris” who can trouble everyone with that length just outside the off-stump with the occasional bounce that carries the knick to the keeper.
Missing Spin Doctor:
Of course no team can have it all and this probably is the chink in the Aussie armour. Doherty is the lone specialist spin option that they have who managed a nod ahead of an inconsistent Lyon in the shorter version of the game. His economical bowling combined with the ability to hold his line helped him make the cut. With Maxwell and Smithy as part-timers who could spell trouble too, there isn’t a “Warney” that could just make this time “Invincible”.
So for a team which has managed to retain just 5 players with prior World Cup Experience, they have stood their ground to become a force to reckon with. The Ace up their sleeves is the variety of options of picks and choose from helping in discounting a player who either gets injured or runs out of steam in between the tournament. If Aussies can make it the 5th time as well, do not be surprised.