Australia’s path to England 2019

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History suggests Australia are the greatest ODI cricket team of all-time, but their recent form says they have work to do if they want to add a sixth World Cup trophy to their cabinet.

Since Australia’s victorious 2015 World Cup campaign at home they haven’t been at their best in the 50 over format. Now, for some that might not be an issue as many see bilateral ODIs and tri-nations tournaments as meaningless schedule cloggers.

But with just six series wins from 12 (not including one-off ODIs against Ireland) since their World Cup triumph, there is some cause for concern for the Australian think-tank heading into the 2019 World Cup in England.

Steve Smith’s side has just surrendered the customary post-Ashes ODI series to England, making it three ODI bilateral series losses in a row. Wedged in amongst those losses was another poor showing at a Champions Trophy tournament – worryingly in the same conditions they will find themselves playing in just under 18 months from now.

In recent years England have turned their white ball fortunes around and become a hard-hitting, dynamic, and powerful ODI outfit. Australians might not be so keen to learn from the old enemy, but when it comes to the one-day format they might want to follow the English blueprint to make sure they can defend their World Cup crown.

There is no shortage of dynamic and powerful cricketers in Australia – the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis can clear any boundary in the world. While the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are just as fearsome with white-ball as they are with the red.

While captain Smith isn’t the same force in ODIs as he is in Test cricket, he is still the talisman and anchor for his team’s batting in the shorter format, and still one of the world’s best.

What Australia need is to start settling on their best combination heading in to the World Cup, and taking the bilateral cricket they play between now and then a little more seriously – something which is easier said than done. With a gruelling schedule it is hard for Australia to regularly field their best ODI line-up, particularly when they want to keep their fast bowling brigade fit and firing for important encounters in the Test arena.

The upside is they get to test out their bench strength – something which has seen the likes of AJ Tye and Jhye Richardson handed ODI caps recently as well as the return of Cameron White to the fold.

Despite Australia’s unique ability to step up for the big tournament regardless of ingoing form, they will need to settle on their best combination and give it some game time together before the tournament starts. Smith, Darren Lehmann, and the selectors need to decide whether to keep excluding Glenn Maxwell.

Whether the explosive Chris Lynn’s body will ever allow him to be the middle-order powerhouse they want him to be. Whether Mitchell Marsh and Stoinis are their best combination of seam-bowling all-rounders.

And what of Nathan Lyon? Does he fit into their plans or will they stick with young legspinner Adam Zampa? Who despite showing promise hasn’t set the world on fire with his performances.

They need to settle on who their reserve fast bowlers will be, who can step up if one of the spearheads breaks down?

While the Aussies may not appear too bothered about 50 over cricket there is no doubt the reigning World Cup champions will be champing at the bit to continue their dominance over the game’s biggest tournament. With the World Cup fast approaching they are running out of time to answer all the big questions.

By Akash Fotedar

Akash is a Perth based journalist and sports writer who loves nothing more than watching people bowl fast. He’s played three seasons in the UK as an overseas professional and is still active in WA Premier Cricket