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ICC World Cup 2011: Don’t Write Off Australia Yet
Australia face Zimbabwe in their opening game, the 2011 ICC World Cup, on February 21, in Ahmedabad, and expect Ponting’s men to fire on all cylinders against a team they should beat relatively easily.
After a couple of losses in their pre-cup warm-up games against South Africa and India, Australia will want to boost the confidence of their players, especially their lower middle order which has failed to fire.
With Haddin set to open with Watson, the top order looks good, especially with skipper Ponting working himself into form with fifties in the practice games.
Watson is in menacing form but sadly for Oz he doesn’t make his good form count, often enough. After 161 in the opener against England in the recent ODI series between the sides, he had a couple of fifties in the next five games. With his wicket-taking ability, as an extra seamer, Watson could be a contender for Man of The Tournament.
Haddin brings more firepower to the top of the order, and Ponting would want his in-form keeper to convert his starts into big hits.
Clarke has never lived up to his potential as a batsman after a brilliant start to his career. He is not the essential ODI player, but with his technical soundness, substitute Ponting brings solidity to the middle order, a particularly critical requirement, in the absence of Mike Hussey.
After his exploits in the IPL, everyone knows how dangerous David Hussey can be; he tends to get off to a good start in almost every game, but like Haddin and Watson, he never really gets on top of his form.
Gwyn has been performing below potential, recently. He started in 5 out of 6 games he played against England, but only had a top score of 45 to show for it. Incidentally, in Clarke’s absence, White captained Australia in the last ODI with England.
Steve Smith hasn’t been too impressive with bat or ball, although he got a few wickets against England. His continued inclusion in the squad suggests the extent of Australia’s decline in international cricket. Not so long ago, much more skilled players were dropped from the squad, despite performing, to make room for young talent.
Johnson is boss; this is a great bowler who has failed more often than not when the team looked up to him to deliver. Add to that his batting talent that justifies pushing him up the order, even as far as the opening slot, and let’s just say, that’s a waste.
Lee is in menacing form; his raw pace can unsettle the best batsmen on the deadliest wickets. Never underestimate Australia with their bowling front showing signs of regaining its pre-2007 wicket-taking prowess.
Tait is another example of great talent wasted. What is it about today’s fast bowlers who don’t have the stomach to perform at the highest level, namely test matches? Having said that, Tait seems to have regained his confidence, and his speed, if nothing else, could be decisive in a crunch situation.
Bollinger has to rate as the most underrated bowler in the world. He lacks pace, a quality you would expect to see in an Australian new ball operator. But take a good look at his economy rate and wicket-taking ability, qualities that will come in handy on the batsmen-friendly wickets of the subcontinent.
In the end, it will boil down to how well Australia do in three games, starting with the quarter-finals. As he prepares to lead his team’s bid for four in a row, Ponting will count on the absence of expectations, as his greatest ally.
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