After a narrow victory against the West Indies and a disappointing loss to India, Australia have limited options to right the ship for the remainder of the tournament.
Following the selection of a group heavy on opening options, the selectors must find themselves longing for a middle-order accumulator to keep things ticking along when setting a target.
With four of the five specialist batsmen in the 15-man squad most comfortable opening, Australia is missing a Michael (Bevan or Hussey) to steady the middle order and anchor the innings in its awkward middle stages.
The non-selection of Peter Handscomb, who would fill this spot perfectly along providing a backup ‘keeping option, is more glaring with each game lost.
The curious disappearance of Travis Head from the ODI setup also appears nonsensical now, and will most likely only be short-lived coming into the 2019-20 summer of cricket.
With only Shaun Marsh on the sidelines, the best option available to Justin Langer and Aaron Finch is a reshuffle of the lineup in an attempt to salvage their campaign. The most logical choice here would be reverting to the previous successful opening partnership of Finch and Usman Khawaja.
When a recent rain delay resulted in a 2007 World Cup replay being aired, I was reminded of how effective the brute force of Matthew Hayden was alongside the piercing power of Adam Gilchrist.
Khawaja’s ability to split the field complements Finch’s bludgeoning style, and their differing approaches arguably present a greater challenge to opening attacks than the dual fireworks of Finch and Warner, the latter of whom has been closer to a cheap sparkler of late.
Although moving Warner to the middle order would be a risk, it also gives him more time to gauge conditions and adapt his approach depending on how the innings is progressing.
With Marcus Stoinis underperforming with bat and ball so far, Langer should look to bring Shaun Marsh in and see what he can offer the middle order. His ability to work the ball around, combined with his array of straight bat shots at least vaguely resembles vintage Hussey, and are worth a look at this stage of the tournament.
Finally, what to do with our underperforming bowling attack?
I argued with a friend recently about the selectors leaving out Josh Hazlewood based on lack of match time recently, and I still think he was worth the risk.
While his batting has been a welcome bonus so far, Nathan Coulter-Nile has been mostly woeful with the ball of late. The aforementioned 2007 World Cup replay featured a stellar 3/16 performance from Glenn McGrath, and made me nostalgic for his metronomic brilliance.
Hazlewood is certainly the closest thing we have to this right now, and his control has been sorely missed in Australia’s first three games of the tournament.
Again, the selectors do not have a lot of options up their sleeve to address this challenge from within the squad. Jason Behrendorff is a great bowler on his day, but arguably too similar to Mitchell Starc, with equal potential to be belted.
Kane Richardson has been in strong T20 form the last 12 months, but was an odd choice for the World Cup. It is difficult to seriously consider him as a strong third seam option, but while the selectors persist with only one spinner, he may have to be given a run to see if he sinks or swims.
The spin situation also does not inspire great hope.
Adam Zampa was plundered by all comers against India, and appears to lack the containing capacity to be effective against the best players of spin. Nathan Lyon’s strong record in England should see him play at least the next game ahead of his moppy-haired compatriot, who always seems to respond strongly to being dropped.
Leaving him out for the next game or two may just light a fire to see him reach his peak in coming games.
Australia’s start to the tournament has been far from ideal, and without a lot of options in the squad, it may be difficult to turn around.
The selectors need to shake things up and see what happens.
This article originally stated Australia have lost two matches at the World Cup. That has been corrected.