Brooks Koepka, in the last couple of years, has put together an astounding run of form in the major championships.
With the greatest competition in cricket commencing in England next week, Australia are steadily shaping as a decent chance of reclaiming their 2015 title as world champions.
Despite a poor ODI run in 2017 and 2018, they have gelled at the right time with wins against Pakistan and India. Now Steve Smith and David Warner are back, picking a team for Australia’s first clash against Afghanistan will be difficult. Here’s my selection for the team in batting order.
1. Usman Khawaja
His stellar run opening the batting with Aaron Finch in the past year means he deserves first go ahead of Warner as an opener. Averaging above 50 in the past two series and commonly putting on 100=run opening partnerships with Finch, Khawaja has proven he is able to open the batting in all three formats of the game. He is interchangeable with Warner between opening and first drop, but for Game 1 he deserves the chance to open with Finch again and continue their streak. Considering he only averages 17 when batting at first drop, an ideal world would see Warner perform well at number three and Khawaja continue to work with Finch in the opening spots.
2. Aaron Finch (captain)
A wonderful leader and an opening batsman in form, Finch has reconciled his poor Test match form over the 2018-19 summer with some important knocks in one-day cricket. His churning of runs against Pakistan and India meant he cemented his spot as opener alongside either Khawaja or Warner. Also, his shrewd and creative captaincy could make or break Australia’s chances, as he comes from an out-of-the-box school of thought supported by one of Australia’s greatest cricketing brains in Shane Warne.
3. David Warner
He can do anything. An infamous character who will be viewed and booed as a villain by English crowns, Warner is the key to this World Cup. If he fires at No. 3, Australia will become a dynamic team with a daunting batting line-up. Warner can take games away from opponents in clutch moments, as seen in his blitz knock in the 2015 World Cup final that stabilised Australia after the early loss of Finch. He can be hit or miss, but in one-day cricket Warner’s explosive ability is a must at the top of the order.
4. Steve Smith
It’s like he never left. Smith has returned to making runs consistently in World Cup practice matches. He is still the same wonderful fielder and impressive batsman that was banned in South Africa a year ago, meaning he is a lock for the side. He performs best in the No. 3 position, but considering his comfort batting at No. 4 in Test matches, he will be more than capable of adapting. A firing Smith may make the difference in pressure situations, so ‘Smudge’ should be given every opportunity to settle and make runs.
5. Glenn Maxwell
It’s the Big Show. He has to be given first crack. Alongside Warner, Maxwell is the one who can determine Australia’s fortunes. With the bat, a century and some vital half-centuries may catapult his nation to insurmountable scores or help them chase a daunting total. In the field his catches and ground fielding could result in key wickets that turn the momentum. With his bowling, he could provide spin relief that is economical yet can also buy wickets in important times. Maxwell has to play due to his potential. If he delivers, Australia may become favourites very quickly.
6. Marcus Stoinis
A similar character to Maxwell, he just boasts so much X factor that you don’t want to leave him out. It was out of Stoinis and Shaun Marsh, but Stoinis should be given first chance to entrench himself in the line-up. If he delivers with runs, Australia’s batting is propped up and they become a dangerous force that can score runs incredibly fast. His bowling, especially at the death, could also sway results and change games with crucial wickets.
7. Alex Carey (wicketkeeper)
The heir to Tim Paine’s Test match gloves is the best ODI keeper-batsman we have. He can bat anywhere and can be the lynchpin of innings if needed. I would love to see him come out of his shell and play as aggressively as he does for the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League. If he does this and his strike rate increases, then he becomes a versatile cog of Australia’s line-up that can control the tempo of matches and make any total possible. His glovework is no issue – pristine and technically wonderful, even for seaming English conditions.
8. Pat Cummins (vice-captain)
What a star this kid is. Missing out on the 2015 World Cup final because of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Johnson’s superb form, Cummins deserves to be a part of a winning team. His ascent to becoming one of the best bowlers in the world could be capped off with a World Cup, which is certainly possible if he continues to bowl accurately and aggressively. His clever brain and wonderful all-round ability means he must bat at No. 8, as he can contribute handily in any way to the team.
9. Mitchell Starc
Starc has had a lacklustre year with tapering form and a poor injury run, but if you want to see what he can offer in ODI cricket, look at his effort in the 2015 World Cup, where he was named man of the series. He can take wickets at any time, and at his best he is a formidable bowler to face. If he manages to find his form and be injury-free, then he could reach his heights from 2015 and use the English conditions to bowl Australia to victory.
10. Nathan Coulter-Nile
With no Jye Richardson or Josh Hazlewood, Coulter-Nile gets the nod ahead of Jason Behrendorff. Just. His experience and reliability are exactly what Australia need from a first-change bowler. He is quick enough to intimidate and crank up the pace. He is no slouch – Coulter-Nile’s bowling could be pivotal in determining how far Australia go in this World Cup. Therefore he is given first go to show what he can do. If he isn’t having an impact, then Behrendorff and his knack of taking wickets will be introduced at some stage. He can also hit a big ball if needed to tie up innings.
11. Adam Zampa
It was out of Zampa and Nathan Lyon, and the young leg spinner gets first go. He’s played consistently in this team and has been admirable in his toils, so he deserves to show why the selectors have trusted him. His bowling has improved vastly over the past year, as he is an accurate and clever bowler who now has enough tricks and patience to get anyone out. A young Shane Warne came to a World Cup in England in 1999 and made it his – can Zampa come of age and take some wickets? He doesn’t seem to take big hauls of wickets, so now is his chance to break free of consistently taking two wickets a game and instead dominate teams. If he isn’t up to scratch, then the trusty Lyon is there, but a firing Zampa gives Australia so much versatility.
There we go! That leaves Shaun Marsh, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon and Kane Richardson as the men left out. They will all be used at times during the tournament, and a drop in form from the selected 11 will result in them coming straight in. This isn’t a permanent 11, just a side for the first match who should get a chance to cement their position in the side.