New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) Once undisputed as a cricketing superpower, Australia will be out to re-establish their credentials during the upcoming Cricket World Cup-2011 by winning their fourth successive World Cup, fifth overall and second in the subcontinent.
Though they are no longer feared, their resounding 6-1 success over England in the One-Day Internationals (ODI) series that ended Sunday certainly makes them favourites for the Feb 19-April 2 mega event.
Australia are still the world’s top ODI side, albeit without the usual swagger. The decline is not as steep as it is in Tests, it only emboldened their opponents to stare them down.
Injuries and form are two big worries for Australia. Captain Ricky Ponting is nursing a cracked finger, dependable Michael Hussey has a hamstring injury that might keep him out of the first two games, and their best spinner Nathan Hauritz is racing against time after dislocating the bowling shoulder and undergoing a surgery.
There are positives too — the successful comeback of paceman Brett Lee and express-fast Shaun Tait, who took 11 and 13 wickets in the series against England. Add left-handers Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger and the ammunition can be deadly.
The spin department, however, will lack sharpness in the absence of Hauritz. Leg-spinner Steven Smith is still to make a mark as a bowler.
In batting, a lot will depend on all-rounder and opener Shane Watson. The hard-hitting batsman has been a consistent performer and, with Brad Haddin as his opening partner, the team can expect a blistering start.
With Ponting and Michael Clarke are going through long lean patches, the Hussey brothers and Cameron White will be the driving force in the middle-order.
Stand-in captain against England, Clarke said the start from Watson and Haddin will be crucial.
“I can see our opening partnership certainly providing that. I think Watto and Hadds are a wonderful combination. They suit each other. The sub-continent conditions will really suit them and I think over there, the first 10 or 15 overs are going to be crucial. You need to get off to good starts. On any given day, one can go off and the other can play that anchor role. Add Ricky Ponting into that top four and I think we have got a pretty good order,” Clarke said.
Whatever the circumstances, no opposition can dismiss Australia just like that.
Ponting led his side to two triumphs to complete a hat-trick of World Cup wins in the Caribbean, but knows that this will be his biggest challenge. He will be making his fifth and possibly last World Cup appearance, having been the face of Australian domination for so long.
It was here in the sub-continent that Australia won the World Cup for the first time in 1987 and started looking invincible.
The victory of Allan Border’s team at the Eden Gardens in 1987 laid the foundation for the next decade of Australian domination. They lost the 1996 final to a smart and tougher Sri Lankan side, but they regained it in England in 1999 under the dogged Steve Waugh. Then in the next two World Cups (2003, 2007) Ponting’s men were simply ruthless.
The Squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Doug Bollinger, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, Tim Paine.
Fixtures: Feb 21 vs Zimbabwe (Ahmedabad), Feb 25 vs New Zealand (Nagpur), Mar 5 vs Sri Lanka (Colombo), Mar 13 vs Kenya (Bangalore), Mar 16 vs Canada (Bangalore), Mar 19 vs Pakistan (Australia).