David Warner is Australia’s most important limited-overs player, as they are going to find out this afternoon when Manuka Oval hosts the third and final ODI against India.
This weekend the curtain rises on Australia’s new-look one-day competition.
The question being asked is whether it will improve the performances of the national ODI team. Australia may have reached the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup earlier this year, but it was very much down to the performances of David Warner and Mitchell Starc.
The frailties in Australia’s ODI set-up were brutally exploited by England in the semi-final. There is an exposed underbelly that Justin Langer needs to address.
Scrutinising Australia’s performance at the World Cup, it is easy to see how reliant they are on a few players to consistently perform. Warner’s 647 runs and Starc’s 27 wickets guarantee they are the first two names on the team sheet for matches in India and South Africa and a home series against New Zealand early next year.
Wicketkeeper Alex Carey is now the white-ball incumbent as his punchy and combative batting adds valuable runs down the order. Aaron Finch as captain is a fine opener in this format, while Steve Smith and Pat Cummins are automatic selections just for being themselves. There is an argument that Smith may not be entirely suited to white-ball cricket, but who would be brave enough to drop him? Langer isn’t and nor should he be.
The rest of the positions are up for grabs. Usman Khawaja needs to rediscover his form to cement his spot. The mercurial Glenn Maxwell is a brilliant white-ball batsman but somehow needs to curb his inclination to try and swat every ball to the boundary. Marcus Stoinis’s World Cup campaign did his international career much harm, and he needs a good domestic run to alleviate fears about his competency at the highest level.
Australia’s bowlers also flattered to deceive. Whether it was Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile or Kane Richardson, there was always a feeling they had a poor performance just around the corner. It’s difficult to assess Adam Zampa’s worth, but he is another player who needs wickets in the domestic competition to prove his value.
Cricket Australia are hoping that changes to the one-day competition will solve the disconnect between domestic and international 50-over competitions seen in previous seasons. The competition has been the curtain-raiser for the Australian domestic season for six seasons. The tournament was over before Sheffield Shield cricket had started and it was felt that there was too big a gap until the ODI matches were played.
This season the cup will be played in three blocks of matches culminating with the final on 26 November. Players returning from the UK will not feature early in the tournament but could play later.
Victoria are the current holders and captain Peter Handscomb will be hoping for personal success as much as for the team. The inclusion of Finch and Maxwell will ensure that the Victorians are competitive. Players such as Nic Maddinson and Chris Tremain will want to bring themselves back into contention, while young Will Pucovski’s stock could rise on the back of a successful campaign.
Likewise, for New South Wales, Kurtis Patterson will hope that renewed international representation is feasible.
Queensland’s campaign stuttered before it even started with the news that Chris Lynn will be missing. Rather than play in the tournament, where he plundered 452 runs at 75.33 last season, Lynn will be concentrating on shorter formats. Afghanistan and the UAE are his targets rather than play for his state team. Matt Renshaw’s protracted absence from the national team could be helped by some runs. Not ideally suited for ODIs, Renshaw takes the opportunity to put his hand up for the Tests.
South Australia’s team could see the early shots fired for the battle for Australia’s leg spinner role. Teenager Lloyd Pope will be remembered for his 8-35 in the under-19 cricket World Cup last year. He has already played in the Big Bash League and Sheffield Shield and will undoubtedly be a probable for the next World Cup. Zampa also plays for South Australia and will be under pressure from the young usurper.
Ben McDermott will hope that his form for Tasmania means at the very least more T20 opportunities. Teammate James ‘The Finisher’ Faulkner must be in contention for a recall in the all-rounder role on the back of Stoinis’s World Cup. Faulkner was man of the match in the 2015 final but has not played an ODI in two years.
Jhye Richardson’s comeback from the injury that ruled him out of the World Cup will see him start for Western Australia. Richardson has already taken 24 ODI wickets in 12 matches. His pace would have been a useful option earlier in the summer considering Australia’s patchy bowling.
In the batting department it could be time for Josh Phillippe to make his move. Langer, due to his time as Western Australia coach, is already aware of the young wicketkeeper-batsman. England fans may remember Phillippe from a tour game prior to the 2017-18 Ashes, when he thrashed 88 against a bowling attack featuring both Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.
The one-day cup ultimately serves little purpose other than to provide a shop window to manifest international players. The tinkering with formats suggests no other course. In the past the Australian one-day tournament has seen such innovations as players wearing shorts and signs on the boundary offering riches if hit on the full. This season, the improvements are designed for a loftier purpose than state rivalry and fan entertainment.