The ICC Cricket World Cup is less than 100 days away. All the teams involved are gearing up to finalise their team composition and build momentum ahead of the event which will begin on May 30. For Australia, the five-time world champions, the side has suffered a downslide in the last one year. It has been a year since the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town against South Africa which resulted in the one-year bans on Steve Smith and David Warner, their best batsmen. The criticism and the damage to Australia’s reputation off the field have reflected in their poor performances Down Under. A series loss in Tests and T20Is to Pakistan, ODIs and T20I to South Africa as well as losses in Tests and ODIs against India is not an ideal build-up.
If one looks at Australia’s schedule in the coming months, it is enormous. Aaron Finch’s side begin their last push to the World Cup with a two-match T20I and five ODI series against India followed by five ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE. In India, they have not won an ODI series for the last 10 years. With India winning nine out of their last 13 ODIs against Australia, the current world champions are low on confidence facing a team that is solid on all fronts and is high on confidence.
The India and Pakistan contests give them a tough trial by spin and they head for the World Cup. Following the end of the tournament, Australia square off against England in the Ashes contest in five Tests that will form the first matches of the new ICC Test Championship. This situation is a slight role reversal of what England faced in previous years. In 2007 and 2011, England had faced Australia in tough Tests Down Under and their World Cup performances took a dip. In this case, Australia comes straight off the World Cup and takes on England in swinging conditions where they have struggled in the last 14 years.
‘Will get hurt’
“I don't think you need anything to put pep in your step when you're going on an Aussie tour. If you are slightly off the mark, you are going to get hurt,” Australia skipper Finch remarked about their tour of India but he could have very well stated about the team’s chances in the coming six months.
Australia currently cannot play spin well, cannot tackle swing and have had the far from ideal build-up for the ICC Cricket World Cup. When one looks at previous editions, the Australian side had built great momentum by winning consistently before the tournament. Whenever they have won over 80 percent of their ODIs before the World Cup, they have gone on to win the tournament with the exception of 2011 where they lost to India in the quarterfinals. In 2007, Australia lost five consecutive games before the World Cup but they went on to win the title.
A loss against India and Pakistan will hurt their prospects in the World Cup. An early exit from the tournament will lower their confidence even further while a surrender of the Urn in England could break their cricketing morale for the whole year. The year 2019, in addition to being a World Cup year, is also the make-or-break year for Australian cricket. It all begins in India.