Well, what a rollicking game of cricket that was!
When I was a little tacker playing in junior cricket an award was given out for the most improved player. Fast forward quite a few years and a similar award could probably be handed to Aaron Finch on behalf of the Australian ODI team.
This side has been put together in no time at all, and the fact it is winning games is a credit to all involved.
It’s now almost five months to the day since Australia played its last ODI game in our summer against India, and the following guys played in that game, in batting order:
The problems we had were huge: no opening bat to go with Finch, who was badly out of form; no real quality ODI fast bowlers to speak off except Jhye Richardson, who was excellent; an out-of-form Zampa; and a middle order that batted far too slowly. We were ranked sixth in world ODI cricket and were probably lucky to rate that high given the team’s record read four wins from 22 games since the Champions Trophy in 2017.
Finch took an Australian side to India, and they played their first game on 2 March 2019. Since then the team has played a total of 15 ODIs, but India has been the only nation to beat them this calendar year. The team currently sit atop the World Cup standings with four wins from five games and is probably only a couple of wins from a finals spot
This is a truly remarkable turnaround in three months bearing in mind how poorly the team played in the preceding 20 months.
Lots of Aussie fans now have an expectation this side can and will win the World Cup. The question is whether or not that’s a reasonable expectation.
This team is probably not as talented as the side that won the Cup in 2015. Just the bowling attack alone in 2015 comprised Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood, SHane Watson, James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Aaron Finch. This team has Starc and Pat Cummins, while the rest of the attack is a work in progress.
The side is trying to establish an identity as a playing group. England has its identity as a seriously good batting team and a steady bowling unit, India as a team with a spectacular batting top three and possibly the best attack in ODI cricket.
Australia is betwixt and between. Critics have been carping on about them not making enough runs to compete with the big boys and the bowling not having had a chance to settle, as every game it seems a new combination is being used.
Smith and Dave Warner have come back in pretty good touch and have been significant contributors already, but they have also produced tensions, with the booing from Indian fans being an obvious example. Even when Smith made his 50 against Sri Lanka, there were scattered boos that must have some impact, however small that might be.
The No. 6 position is still up for grabs, and again Australia have spent its first five games experimenting with the line-up to cover for a lack of a quality all-rounder. This clearly shows a team in development rather than a settled unit. This should not be a surprise if one remembers where the side was three months ago.
Selectors have not been helped either by injuries to Hazlewood and Richardson as well the side strain currently affecting Stoinis. There’s no doubt Kane Richardson and Jason Behrendorff are doing their best, but it remains to be seen whether they can be as effective as the guys they’re replacing.
A comment from a Roar regular prompted this piece – thanks TB! – and he’s right; we do need to put Australia’s efforts into perspective. If this side makes the knockout stage, that will be an enormous achievement considering where we were less than four months ago.
Aaron Finch and Justin Langer have led a massive change in Australian ODI cricket and clearly the team has bought into it as well.
People can dare to hope Australia wins the World Cup, but their performances have probably exceeded the expectations fans would have had after that eight-wicket thrashing in January.
They make the finals and they’ve certainly exceeded mine.