Top 8 Teams for the ICC World Cup 2015 – Australia
Australia 15-man squad for ICC World Cup 2015: Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin,(wicket keeper) Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.
Australia have been the most consistent team over the past three decades and secured four World Cups including a hat-trick of World Cup victories. They maintain their consistency as a team in the grand tournament but their performances have taken a dip of late which reflects in the fact that their ODI rankings continually dropped from the otherwise unchallenged top spot. This is mostly attributable to the sudden retirement of key Aussie stars over the years. Still, the young Aussie side has managed to regain lost guile and form only to become the top team in the ICC ODI Rankings again.
The Australian World Cup squad has been greatly criticized this time. Australia have taken a gamble with the unfit Michael Clarke. As captain of the side, Clarke finds himself in a bothersome state with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the team for a while. The Aussie selectors have given Clarke upto 21st of February, the second Australian match in the World Cup, to prove his fitness. Clarke admits that he has to do some hard work or he might have to ‘spectate’ the World Cup. National Selector Rod Marsh wants Clarke to play the warm-up game against UAE on the 7th February; although, he doesn’t need to worry about any running that day. If Clarke does fail his fitness test, he will be replaced by George Bailey as Captain. This does come as a surprise after seeing the outstanding rise in team performance under the test Vice-captain Steve Smith. Smith has become the first Captain in the history of cricket to score hundreds on his first Test and his first ODI as captain.
Australia have set the same deadline of February 21st for anybody else who gets unfit during the games prior to the World Cup. Rod Marsh said they want the team to be settled before the game against Bangladesh but they think that they can take a gamble on anybody before that and replace a player only if it they are unable to play after the deadline.
Pat Cummins and Xavier Doherty have seen a comeback to the team where Doherty replaces Lyon as the specialist spinner in the team. Ryan Harris wasn’t selected for the final 15 probably because he has not played a single ODI for the past three years. There were no other surprises in Australia’s squad for this mega event.
Just as much as the Australian selectors, everybody is aware that the most key player in the side is Michael Clarke. He is the leader that the team look up to and he is the backbone that has carried their batting in and outside of Australia. Nobody can deny the class and strength Clarke brings to the side.
Steve Smith is in the form of his life and a chance at captaincy has brought out the best in him. We should expect to see him carry the batting alongside Clarke (conditional to his fitness).
Among the pacers, Australia will be looking towards Mitchell Johnson to lead the pace attack and bowl with the same pace, intensity and ruthlessness as he bowled against England in the Ashes series in Australia. Well aware of this, Australia have tried to reduce the burden on Johnson in matches prior to the World Cup. Even during the World Cup, we should expect the application of the rotation policy and for Johnson to play the important matches only.
Australia’s strength at their home is the utilisation of the pace and bounce available on their pitches. With in-form Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc in the side, assisted by all-rounders like Watson, Faulkner (conditional to his fitness) and Marsh, Australian strength is easy to find in their pace attack. Therefore, Australia will greatly rely on their pace attack even more so than the past because of the lack of a star spinner.
In terms of batting, Australia will be heavily reliant on Smith’s form and Clarke’s experience to lift the middle order while Warner, Finch and Watson will provide the oomph at the top of the order.
Team Australia lacks a quality spinner but this might not be the weakness that lets Australia down as most tracks in Australia and New Zealand are not very helpful to the spinners in ODIs. Someone like Shane Warne could pretty much toy with the batsmen on any ground but Australia has come to grips with the fact that he is no longer a part of the team. Tracks in Australia and New Zealand prove unfruitful to most spinners coming from anywhere in the world. That explains why Australia have gone with someone who doesn’t spin the bowl much but can help contain the runs i.e. Xavier Doherty.
What is considered to be the most problematic weakness that Australia have faced in the recent past is fitness of the players. Michael Clarke and Mitchell Marsh have been prone to injuries and are currently not fit to play while the Australian pacers have been seen going down one after the other. James Faulkner has been another one of the casualties during matches played prior to the World Cup. This spells great trouble since he is one of the key players that adds the all-needed balance to the Aussie side. We will just have to wait and see what goes down before the start of the World Cup while the Australian fans would have their fingers crossed to see all their stars play at their full strength and not let down by fitness issues.
To sum up, Australia are heading into this tournament with a fiery pace attack, one of the best if not THE best that is backed by an in-form middle order and a very destructive top order. If all goes well in terms of fitness and plans, Australians have nothing to fear despite the absence of a good spinner in the ranks. The team might be playing below its full strength but the present form will pave way for a better show when its most needed. With the team ranked at the top spot and playing the World Cup at home turf, Australia are easily one of the hot favourites of this event.