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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Australia - Are they really the favorites?

The Australian team for the World Cup goes like this:
Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hodge, Brad Haddin (wk), Brad Hogg, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait.

Lets go player by player and see how they line up.

Adam Gilchrist is the dashing opener, who has not been having a good time with the bat recently - some sporadic big scores followed by many failures with the bat (some might feel that his recent century that was the 2nd fastest in test matches, was a hint of return to form). He is suspect as far as his form is concerned. The first time, probably a hint of his ageing skills, the Aussie management has named a reserve wicket-keeper to take care of Gilly.

Matthew Hayden was dropped from the team, which brought back his hunger in the ODIs. This was evident in the recent series against NZ, where he scored the highest ODI score for an Aussie (that the team lost is a different issue). He has gained his spot against the likes of Simon Katich, Shane Watson after proving his worth in gold.

Ricky Ponting is in the form of his life, that probably started with the last World Cup final. He has been having injury issues as well (well, who doesnt have it in any of the international teams). He and Hussey are probably the key batsmen for opposition bowlers to target. His captaincy hasnt been tested very much, because of the extraordinary skills the team posseses.

Shane Watson is a kind of unknown, even though he has showed his potential in some of hte matches he has been involved in. The Aussies have tried him as an opener as well, with some encouraging results. But, Watson's main responsiblity would have to be the bowling (what with Symonds injured). How he performs on the slow wickets is key and on recent performances, the outlook is gloomy.

Michael Hussey - Mr.Cricket - must get over the recent whitewashing that the Aussies suffered against the Kiwis. There was no noticeable dip in his form though. His batting against spin, especially on the low wickets, is somewhat untested so far. Hence, that would be a target for his opposition team.

Michael Clarke has mentioned that he has recovered from his hip injury. But, how much would he be affected by this, can be seen only during the World Cup. Again, he has to do some bowling along with Watson, to ensure that Symonds' loss is not felt by the team.

Andrew Symonds. The fact that the Aussies downslide started after he got injured, speaks volumes. He is not only a hard-hitting batsmen but can contribute by bowling spin or pace, as the wicket requires. Not to mention his wonderful abilities on the field. It might be difficult for him to make an impact on the World Cup with this injury - this will make a major impact on the Aussie chances.

Brad Hodge has been coming along as a decent batsmen. But, he will get limited opportunities in the World Cup (this might change if Clarke doesnt recover well in time). Again, he hasnt been tested on quality slow bowling on slow, low wickets.

Brad Hogg has not played many matches of late. But, he is a key player for the team since he is the main slow bowler for the Aussies. Definitely not in the same form as the last World Cup.

Glenn McGrath - the senior pro. His figures in the Caribbean is not flattering, if one notices his overall numbers. Nevertheless, he would be the one bowler that Ricky Ponting would have to get back to, multiple times, during the World Cup - for the breakthroughs.

Nathan Bracken has been in and out of the Aussie squad - though he has cemented his place with fine performances recently. As is typical with the Aussie lower order, his batting is not great. So, Ponting cannot expect many runs from him.

Mitchell Johnson did well initially but has not lived up to his reputation so far. Will have to fight it out with Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait for the 3rd bowler's slot.

Stuart Clark was wrongly dropped in the first place. Now, he has got a chance to get back to the squad after the injury to Brett Lee. But, again, he has not demonstrated his capabilities in the ODI scene so far.

Shaun Tait has shown the ability to bowl around 160kph. But, speed is not going to matter, if the direction is not right. This was seen during the series against NZ. He has been backed by Lillee and Thommo earlier in his career, but will not make much of an impact in the World Cup.

Brad Haddin might get a chance to play against the minnows. Do not expect him to play against the test-playing nations.
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