It’s been a difficult year both on and off the field for the reigning world champions but as any cricket fan knows, we should never write off the Australians. The 12 months since “Sandpapergate” are well documented but the 2019 squad must put all of that behind them.
The positive news sees Steve Smith and David Warner return to the unit following their international suspensions and while they are third favorites in the outright betting, there is plenty of support for the 2015 winners.
Backing the Champions?
Anyone looking at Australia’s ODI results over the last 12 months might have been hoping for better outright win odds than +400. That puts the Aussies in third place, behind England and India, but they are some way clear of the chasing pack — led by New Zealand at odds of +1000.
Australia was on the wrong end of the highest-ever ODI score as England racked up 481 at Trent Bridge in 2018. They have suffered some big losses but with Warner and Smith restored, can they claim a record sixth world title this summer?
All the talk focuses on Australia’s batting but their bowlers could hold the key to success at this year’s World Cup. Skipper Aaron Finch has already spoken of a plan to use Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins back in the middle overs in a bid to quell the rise in 400+ team totals.
The 2019 Australian World Cup squad has a depth of pace bowling to back Starc and Cummins who may well take the new ball. Jason Behrendorff and Kane Richardson may lack experience but raw talent can comfortably back up the opening pair while the old pro, Nathan Coulter-Nile, is a useful option.
Injuries have dogged both Starc and Cummins to an extent but if they can stay fit and firing through a long tournament, Australia should get through to the knockouts at the very least.
Slotting Back In
The big question mark over Australia in 2019 is whether Steve Smith and David Warner can slot seamlessly back into this squad. Batting has been weak in their absence and they simply must be productive if the Aussies are to go deep into this tournament.
We may get some clues from the IPL: Warner rejoined the Sunrisers after missing the 2018 competition and he was back to his belligerent best, scoring 692 runs and winning the Purple Cap. Smith, in contrast, was more subdued as his Rajasthan Royals side exited at the group stages. They’re showing different form but both men have to fire.
We’ve already mentioned Mitchell Starc and we only have to look back to the previous World Cup to underline his potential value to the 2019 squad. Four years ago when Australia was co-host along with New Zealand, Starc finished as joint leading wicket taker with 22 victims and he was also named player of the series.
As he approaches this year’s tournament, the left-armer has 145 ODI wickets from 75 matches and while that’s not a huge haul, his remaining stats are seriously impressive. With an average of 21.44, a strike rate under 26 balls and an economy rate of 4.95, Mitchell Starc shows why he is Australia’s key man and in English conditions, he can play another major role in 2019.
Australia will certainly receive a hostile reception no matter where they go: Fans have been buying up sandpaper as enthusiastically as match tickets and the squad will be constantly reminded of their past indiscretions. That hostility will have little effect and it runs the risk of firing up the side and inspiring them to answer their critics in the best possible fashion.
There is that question mark over Warner and Smith but those two aside, there is batting depth that took responsibility in Australia’s recent one-day series with Pakistan. The previously erratic Glenn Maxwell started to show some consistency while Usman Khawaja can also score heavily at this level and is an option to open or to come in at first drop.
Aaron Finch experienced a dip in form but the current skipper bounced back and he’ll always be a threat in the limited overs formats. As for bowling, Starc and Cummins are key but they will need those backup seamers to perform.
In terms of other long-term bets, Mitchell Starc may well be worth considering as top tournament bowler when that particular market is opened. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of interest in David Warner as top batsman at +1400.
Overall, there are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” relating to Australia at the 2019 World Cup but there is enough quality in the squad to progress to the semifinals.
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ICC World Cup News
Odds Shark Staff Thu, Feb 17, 9:14amICC World Cup