OVERALL WORLD CUP RECORD:
Matches – 69, Won – 51, Lost – 17, Tied – 1
BEST WORLD CUP RESULT:
Champions (1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007)
CURRENT ICC ODI WORLD RANKING:
Australia has produced inconsistent results in the 50-over format since the start of last year.
The Aussies started well with a comfortable 3-2 away series win against New Zealand in March. They then travelled to England in June where they lost their first three games of the series before regaining some respectability and winning the last two.
Perhaps Australia’s lowest ODI moment in 2010 came when they lost a home series against Sri Lanka in November. The Aussies lost a seemingly unlosable game in Melbourne and then set a too small a target in a rain reduced match at the SCG to hand the Lankan’s their first ever series win in Australia.
However Australia bounced back with a vengeance against the Poms a few months later. After the Aussie test team failed to reclaim the coveted Ashes urn, the one-day team came out and destroyed the Poms’ aspirations of a perfect Australian tour, thrashing them 6-1 in a best-of-seven-match series.
Overall, the Aussies won 16 of their 25 matches played in 2010 and have managed to hold onto their number one ranking ahead of the World Cup.
2011 WORLD CUP SCHEDULE:
Game 1 – v Zimbabwe at Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad (Monday February 21, D/N)
Game 2 – v New Zealand at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagur (Friday February 25)
Game 3 – v Sri Lanka at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo (Saturday March 5, D/N)
Game 4 – v Kenya at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore (Sunday March 13, D/N)
Game 5 – v Canada at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore (Wednesday March 16, D/N)
Game 6 – v Pakistan at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo (Saturday March 19, D/N)
On current form, Shane Watson is arguably the best cricketer in the world. The 2011 Allan Border Medallist has been nothing short of outstanding since transforming himself into an intimidating and destructive opening batsman in all forms of the game. Since January 2009, Watson has accumulated 2090 ODI runs at an average of 45.43 with four centuries and 12 fifties. Most importantly, two of those hundreds came back-to-back on the big stage – during the first semi-final and final of the 2009 Champion’s Trophy tournament. The 29-year-old will be heavily relied upon with both bat and ball during Australia’s World Cup campaign, but that burden certainly won’t bother him one iota. Watson needs to continue his good form and assert himself at the start of an innings through thunderous drives and pull shots. And if all-rounder can bowl well during the death overs and produce some handy reverse swing, the Aussies will be one step closer to winning their fourth consecutive World Cup.
Like England, the Aussies were hit hard by ill-timed injuries during their recent seven-match home series. Therefore a number of first-preference players have missed out on selection.
Michael Hussey is arguably the team’s most crucial loss. He is currently the only Australian in the top ten of the ICC’s one-day batting rankings and would’ve been the perfect man to rescue the side if the top order collapsed at the start of an innings. But the selectors decided they could not risk Hussey, who suffered a serious hamstring injury during the one-day series against England that resulted in surgery. South Australia’s Callum Ferguson will be his replacement.
Australia has not sent its first choice bowling attack over to the subcontinent either. Ryan Harris, the man who took the most ODI wickets of any bowler in 2010, suffered an ankle injury during the Ashes series and will miss. The economical Clint McKay also failed to recover from a nagging foot injury and was deemed unfit to tour. While Jason Krejza was selected in the squad after fellow spinners Nathan Hauritz (shoulder), Xavier Doherty (back) and Steve O’Keefe (calf) were all ruled out due to injury.
This is Australia’s best team for the World Cup:
1. Shane Watson
2. Brad Haddin (WK)
3. Ricky Ponting (C)
4. Michael Clarke (VC)
5. Cameron White
6. David Hussey
7. Steve Smith
8. Mitchell Johnson
9. Jason Krejza
10. Brett Lee
11. Doug Bollinger
Other Squad Members: John Hastings, Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine (WK) and Shaun Tait
Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds: these five men played significant roles during Australia’s dominant World Cup campaigns in 1999, 2003 and 2007. During those three tournaments, the Aussies won 29 consecutive World Cup matches, and created an aura any sports team dreams of having.
Four years on and things have changed dramatically. The team’s personnel are nowhere near as threatening and opposition teams have overtaken them.
All Australian batsmen will need to concentrate immensely when spin bowlers are introduced into the attack during the tournament. Due to the hard and fast nature of most Australian wickets, many of the top order often struggle to combat spin when they play on the dry subcontinent pitches. Therefore Michael Clarke – Australia’s best player of spin – needs to occupy the crease for as long as possible during the middle portion of an innings and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
However Australia’s own spinning stocks seem thin compared to the Asian teams. Despite his 12-wicket haul on test debut in 2008, off-spinner Krejza could easily be Australia’s weak link for the tournament if he doesn’t bowl accurately. He is an aggressive bowler who allows the ball to turn venomously. But if he drops short to right-handed batsman at any stage, they will rock onto the back foot and slaughter him through the leg side.
Due to a number of injuries, the Australian selectors have chosen an extremely aggressive pace attack for this World Cup. Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson are all explosive fast bowlers with the potential to take wickets and win matches. But due to their unpredictable nature, they are also more likely to leak runs if they are even slightly off target. All three bowlers need to swing the ball if they are going to be successful.
There are too many negatives for the Australians. They may be ranked first in the world in 50-over cricket, but they no longer own the fear or intimidation that used to come so easily to them in years gone by. The Aussies are in good enough form to advance through to the semi-finals, but they will struggle to compete against the likes of Sri Lanka and India.
Opposition teams will know there is no better time to dethrone Australia from its World Cup powerhouse status.
PREDICITION – WHERE WILL THE AUSSIES FINISH?
Ben Waterworth studies journalism at La Trobe University and is upstart’s sports editor.