After what seems like a rather jaded season, rather protracted and turmoil filled, Australia found a glimmer of hope not only on their own turf but rather on the distant land of India. Now buoyed by their unexpected series success in limited overs cricket, Australia are eying time against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as their final dress rehearsal for defending their title in England come June.
It would be fair to say Australia did not appear to stand a chance, not a realistic one anyway, judging by the way they fared at home against essentially the same Indian team at the end of a Test series that, also, went India’s way for the first time in seven decades. The ball tampering/sandpaper-gate fiasco last March appeared to have hit the final nail in the coffin of Australia’s burgeoning problems. June and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, not to mention the Ashes, seemed like a distant dream as the home season ended disastrously with plenty of worrying questions and not enough by way of answers.
However, even as the tide seemed not to budge for Australia when they landed in India, the close finish in the second one day international spurred something in the Australians and although 2-0 in the five match series, they suddenly found resilience and hope in the likes of branded Test specialist Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb who was living like on a tightrope and an unexpected bonus in Ashton Turner. Adam Zampa turned the game on its head with his spinning ability, enough to suggest that Nathan Lyon would be playing catch up.
Even in the midst of this sudden good fortune in the form of a series win, their first in a couple of years, Australia have a few headaches and worries they must consider. Although they appear to have hit a golden streak, the shifting of sands from India to the UAE from India to Pakistan could well be a different story if Australia are not able adapt. Furthermore, the performances of these players still proves a tricky headache for the coach and the rest of the think tank because the skipper, Arron Finch, is himself under pressure to score runs. Steven Smith and David Warner will not be playing in the series against Pakistan which means, barring the Indian Premier League (IPL), the two seasoned players could be heading to the ICC Cricket World Cup virtually without an international match under the belt post the ban. Whether their past reputation is enough to merit automatic solution at the cost of these players who appear to be just about hitting their stride in pivotal positions is something Australia will have to weigh.
If Australia could struggle to accommodate Shaun March or find a place more stable for David Maxwell, their bowling is, also, under the scanner. For one, Mitchell Starc has not had a great run and Josh Hazlewood has been rendered unavailable with stress fractures in his back. In that light, there could be a few selection headaches in the bowling department as well with the likes of Jhye Richardson, also, throwing his hat into the ring and vying for a spot.
While Justin Langer, the Australian coach, is right in thinking the Australian batting order would not be tampered with too much with success continues for them in the UAE, there are some pivotal questions Australia must address if they are to successfully defend their title as champions of the ICC Cricket World Cup.