Monday, February 7, 2011
Team Australia, World Cup 2011
GROUP A (Australia, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe)
Team - AUSTRALIA
ODI Rank - 1
ODI Rating - 131
Last World Cup - Winner
Finals Appearances - 6
Best in a World Cup- Winner '87, '99, '03, '07
Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey (replaced by Callum Ferguson), David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz (replaced by Jason Krejza), Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger.
Strength - batting, bowling, fielding. Aus are good at their cricket!
Weakness - Subcontinental goose-bumps
World Cup champions 3 times on the bounce, 4 times in history, 6 times appeared in the finals, the most consistent performer in limited over cricket since inception, before and after Kerry Packer changed its face (and colour). Once again, they return to defend their title against the contenders.
Australia have selected a squad that looked skinny and weak when it was selected and England have done their best in allowing Australia to climb back to a formidable form that the world might fear ahead of the world cup. It took Australia just 1 week to forget 2010 (that included a streak of 3 test losses, 3 ODI losses and a T20 loss in a row. Before that, they had one test win and two other T20 losses) and start a new campaign in 2011, like a snake shedding its old skin and unraveling the new, shiny skin. Just the little surprise of Hasting featuring in the side that James Hopes had been bailing out for years.
At the top of order, Watson will open with Haddin. Watson is in the form of his life. He has been the core of the rod Australian cricket this summer down under. While all players around him have rusted, he has stood firm and rigid. While he had some trouble crossing the 50s earlier on, one can always bank on him to give you a start. And Haddin has been in good attacking touch, barring a couple of games. And one-drop, one will find the familiar face, Ricky Ponting, who will try to redeem some fame for himself after a horrid 2010, capped by the shame of another Ashes loss. His record at world cups is nothing short of great, and will look to build on it, when he returns from injury and lead the Kangaroos to a possible 4th title in a row.
When Ponting returns, Clarke, who led them to a 6-1 thrashing of the semi-English side will join White, and the Hussey...The David Hussey. I'm not sure if Michael Hussey can recover from his injury. In his absence, it will be Clarke-David-White-Smith. The middle order is packed with fire-works. Atleast one of them is bound to fire. The last time White was in India, he helped Aus score excess of 80 runs in the last 5 or 6 overs. He hasn't fired in the last series, but will be waiting to swing his arms on the Indian pitches. Victorian David Hussey has been the steady, finisher kind of guy in the team, now that his Warrior brother Mike is out of the team for a while. First, settles, then breaks the shackles and eats into the nerves of the opponents. And yes, there is Smith. How shall I describe him? He is not pleasing to the eye, but he gets the job done. He has a bat, and he hits the ball in some possible way, which I once described as "Captain caveman wielding his willow", to score runs at good pace. I'm sure the likes of Lee, Mitch and even Dougie can bat a bit to hold one end as the other batsman pushes the total.
Leaving space for 4 bowling spots, I would go with Dougie-Lee-Mitch for sure, and a toss between the three of Hauritz, Tait and Hastings. Dougie Bollinger, when he entered international cricket, was very tough to score against, and was an instant hit in the shortest format of the game. He hasn't changed much, and has been helping himself with some good batting too! His pace and line, the heavy balls bouncing off the tracks, will always pose a trouble to the top order batsmen. Then, of course, there is Lee, who couldn't have found a better time to hit the peak of his health for the 435th time in his career. He has, and that is good for the Aussies. he has been in terrific form in the series vs England. His pace drops only if he wants to bowl a slower ball. Short balls do not miss the batsman's nose, out-swing, in-swing, reverse swing. And has been chirpy too. Reminded of the old Lee? Brett Lee? Yeah! Mitchell Johnson... He is suffering from a rare case of split personality. he can either be destructive, or self-destructive. On his day, one would rather be watching on TV than playing his skidding pacy missiles.
Hastings, the surprise inclusion did well to convince the people that he is not a random pick, and a good all-rounder who bowls at a healthy pace in the middle and slog overs, and handy batsman who can up the ante if needed! Tait is fast -period-. If he can do what he did last world cup -full and straight, the team will be happy. Anything silly, and he would be dispatched to the rafters. Especially against left handed batsmen like Gayle or Sangakkara, who can flick the ball onto the leg side and play straight with ease. And I then come to the one name, who has been sitting around like that cousin who nobody likes but is welcome in the house - (the already injured) Hauritz. Hilditch, the chief selector, promises that he will deliver in India, and is the first choice spinner for the world cup because of his exceptional record in India (read as 7 games 4 wickets, average over 70, strike rate over 90 balls/wkt). Stranger things have been said, not many. Not like Doherty, Beer or Krejza are any better, but I still think Hauritz is an excess in the squad. The leg spin from Smith and off-breaks from David Hussey and some orthodox tweaks from Clarke (who rarely bowls nowadays) should suffice. Spin isn't Aus' go-to since the departure of Shane Warne. But of course, Australia's lucky charm - Shane Watson, who can just steam-roll any side against the run of play to turn the match on its feet. I would fear Watson's bowling more than Lee's or Mitch's. Watson is more consistent.
In the event of Hussey replaced by Shaun Marsh in the squad, AND Australia opting to play him in the XI, Marsh might open and Haddin might drop to no.7 and nudge either White or Hastings out of the team.
Australia play Zimbabwe, NZ, SL, Kenya, Canada and Pakistan. If Australia don't make a mess of the first 4 games, they would be happy with the going. SA is a good match for them, as would be SL in their home. Pakistan-Australia game could be fun, if the situation needs either of them to win to claim a particular position.
Ponting has quoted that even a World Cup win will not make up for the shame suffered in the Ashes loss. But, the Kangaroos will surely be venting their anger at the world cup, trying to remind the world that they are still the top-ranked ODI team, and not for nothing. They have the fuel, and someone has already ignited it to a hot flame. The Aussies would hope that the flame doesn't get extinguished for another couple of months, while 13 other teams will try to take away from the Aussies what has now almost become their property.