From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.08 :: Feb. 24, 2011
Time for pep talk…members of the Australian cricket team listen to captain Ricky Ponting (centre) during a training session ahead of the World Cup.
Australia, which has won the championship three times in a row, is the eternal favourite. Its 6-1 defeat of England in the one-day series post-Ashes is an indication of the team's form and determination. That Australia organised itself so well after losing the Ashes should keep the opponents on their toes when facing Ricky Ponting and his men in the World Cup.
Australia has a strong ability to perform in crunch situations. Instances from the 1999 and 2003 editions of the World Cup confirm that the Aussies believe in doing well under pressure. They also underline the importance of collective contribution. Australia does not always depend on individual excellence to deliver.
True, the team has suffered a drop in form and reputation in the recent past, but it has been acknowledged as part of the transition that Australia has been undergoing in the last few years. The search for trusted players meant even recalling Brett Lee, who was widely considered a spent force.
The recent one-day series against England gave Lee a platform to serve Australian cricket with the same vigour that marked his debut 11 years ago, as the fast bowler took 11 wickets in six matches. At 34, he may not be at his physical best but Lee symbolises Australia's reading of the challenges that lay ahead. His experience is what Australia values and it should help the team grow as the tournament progresses.
Australia has the right balance. In Ponting it has a player for the big moments. The Ashes wounds may not have healed but Ponting would be keen to win the World Cup once again. He twice held the cup as captain and once as part of Steve Waugh's team in 1999. Form has been an issue with his batting but then Ponting has the calibre to bounce back.
The imposing presence of Shane Watson makes Australia a strong contender. His consistency with bat and ball makes him a much feared all-rounder. The aggression he brings to the crease has often guided Australia in difficult conditions and the World Cup would be a test of his skills.
Michael Clarke (188 ODIs), Cameron White (79 ODIs) and Brad Haddin (76 ODIs) form the nucleus of Australia's batting. The team also has Tim Paine, an exciting prospect who has the capacity to turn a game on its head with his aggressive batting. David Hussey (30 ODIs) can lend strength to the batting in the absence of his brother Mike (151 ODIs), who, like off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, has been ruled out because of an injury. Mike Hussey's absence would certainly hurt Australia's chances.
What makes Australia a strong force is its bowling. Lee remains the spearhead of the attack though Shaun Tait is waiting to explode. His pace can rattle the best of batsmen and he could well be the key bowler in his team's campaign.
Mitchell Johnson brings variety to the Aussie attack. Accuracy is his forte. Doug Bollinger is quick and accurate too. Australia has included two spinners keeping in mind the conditions in the sub-continent. Leg-spinner Steven Smith and the inexperienced off-spinner, Jason Krejza, complete Australia's bowling line-up.
All-rounder John Hastings and natural stroke-player Cameron White could add to the opponents' worries.
On paper, Australia appears to be the best equipped to retain the crown it has been wearing since the 1999 World Cup.
THE SQUADRicky Ponting (captain)
Contents Daily Sports The Hindu Business Line Frontline Publications eBooks Images
Copyright © 2011 Sportstar
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of Sportstar.