The Australian campaign for the 2019 ODI World Cup is done and dusted, though the arguments about methods of play, selections and such will no doubt continue for some time – at least until the Ashes starts anyway.
It’s important though, that this form of cricket doesn’t fall by the wayside, which it almost did over the past four years.
Cast your minds back to the period after Australia won the Cup in 2015. Members from that squad made up the bulk of teams that took all before them until the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
The world champions were expected to lift that trophy as well, but a combination of weather and some ordinary displays meant the Aussies came home empty-handed.
That series seemed to signal a complete change in the intent of Cricket Australia and this was reflected in the team results. Any number of players and combinations were tried, other players were rested, but all that occurred were more and more losses.
Many of the series, especially with all those games against the Indians and that series last year in the UK, were perhaps viewed as a necessary obligation, but not something to take too seriously.
That attitude spilled over to the State ODI competition, which was treated as a total nuisance by CA, with the entire tournament held at the start of the Australian summer and finished so it wouldn’t interfere with the Test series and the Big Bash League.
That sort of timing might have been okay in 2017-18, when there were no important ODI series in the pipeline, but made no sense in 2018-19, with the World Cup in June.
CA only seemed to break out of its ODI lethargy only a few months ago, when it arranged visits to the UAE and India, as well as the warm-up games prior to the World Cup.
Selectors finally decided to bring together players who would form the basis of the World Cup squad but, in effect, allowed themselves a very small window to bring the bulk of the team together.
And all of a sudden, the team started to gel, started to win and obviously started to take shape as the eventual World Cup squad. All of this in four months.
Fast forward to the present and it’s clear Australia has some significant rebuilding to do, right now, if the side wants to maintain or even improve its world ODI ranking.
The question Cricket Australia needs to address is what it plans to do with one day cricket over the next four years, until a side is required to play in the 2023 World Cup in India.
Australia will need to rebuild significantly, with perhaps as few as four of the current squad in contention to play in four years.
There will be plenty of opportunities for young players to strut their stuff, but what about the guys playing good international ODI cricket now? Do we dump them, knowing they’re not going to be around in 2023?
What obligations do we have to provide competitive teams, especially if we’re playing in another nation? It’s fair enough to leave out “injured” players, but if that opens us up to ridicule, as happened after that five-nil thrashing in England, how can that be a good thing for cricket in general, but the players in particular?
Do we want to lose so many games in a row, players mentally get used to it and find it almost impossible to win? That was pretty much the scenario before Aaron Finch took the squad to India and it required a huge effort to get back to winning ways.
Should ODI international cricket be treated as a second or even a third class game, behind domestic competitions like the BBL or even the IPL, neither of which have yet proven the breeding ground of our next generation of 50=over cricketers?
The old Cricket Australia administration, headed by James Sutherland and David Peever, made it pretty clear ODI cricket was not on their radar after 2015, because it made little or no money.
Their lack of attention to ODI cricket led to poor team results, which led more than a few fans to switch off or not attend, only exacerbating the problem which, in many ways, they created.
The new administration needs to declare how this part of the game will be treated and the best way to do that is make it very clear, ODI cricket is important and things like scheduling will reflect this.
Selectors need to choose teams, making sure sides are still very competitive, while keeping in mind the end goal – 2023.
Working hand in hand with selections has to be a clear understanding of the type of cricket this team will be expected to play as well as a preferred makeup.
In saying that, selectors can’t get tied up trying to find an all-rounder, for example, if there are no candidates of suitable international quality.
It may even pay to have an Australian A ODI side tour India for the next few years so younger possible World Cup candidates can get a feel for playing over there.
The one stroke of genius from this tournament Australia should try again, is an Australia A team over there at the same time as the Cup.
Whether more than Peter Handscomb from the A side should have been used in this Cup is a pub debate; the fact was, there was any number of candidates, match fit and ready to go, because they were playing competitive cricket.
There finally needs to be a plan starting with the Aussie 2022-23 summer, so plenty of ODI cricket is played before the squad is decided. It’s simply not good enough to wait until four months before such an important tournament, then try and slap a team together.
It’s clear other nations are getting much better at ODI cricket, almost with every game. Teams like Afghanistan and Bangladesh are no longer pushovers and will be even less so, come 2023.
They will be planning already how they might make the finals and if we don’t do likewise, we could easily find ourselves on an early plane home from India.