Australia face Zimbabwe in their opening game, of ICC World Cup 2011, on February 21, at Ahmedabad, and expect Ponting’s men to fire on all cylinders against a team they should beat with relative ease.
After a couple of defeats in their pre-cup practice games against South Africa and India, Australia will want a confidence booster for their players, especially their lower middle order that has failed to fire.
With Haddin set to open with Watson, the top order looks good, especially with skipper Ponting working himself into form with fifties in the practice games.
Watson is in ominous form but woefully for Oz he doesn’t make his good form count, often enough. After a 161 in the opening game against England in the recent ODI series between the sides, he got a couple of fifties in the next five games. With his ability to snap wickets, as an additional seamer, Watson could be a contender for Man of The Tournament.
Haddin brings more fire-power to the top of the order, and Ponting would want his in-form keeper to convert his starts to big knocks.
Clarke has never really fulfilled his potential as a batsman after a brilliant start to his career. He is not the quintessential ODI player, but with his technical soundness, Ponting’s deputy brings solidity to the middle order, an especially critical requirement, in the absence of Mike Hussey.
After his exploits in the IPL, everyone knows how dangerous David Hussey can be; he tends to get good starts in almost every game, but like Haddin and Watson, never seems to make the most of his form.
White has been performing below potential, recently. He got starts in 5 out of 6 games he played in against England, but only had a top score of 45 to show for it. Incidentally, in Clarke’s absence, White captained Australia in the last ODI with England.
Steve Smith hasn’t been overly impressive with bat or ball, though he did get a few wickets against England. His continued inclusion in the squad points to the extent of Australia’s decline in international cricket. Not so long ago, much more accomplished players were being dropped from the squad, despite performing, to make room for young talent.
Johnson is a puzzle; here is a brilliant bowler who has failed more often than not when the team looked up to him to deliver. Add to that his batting talent that justifies pushing him up the order, even as far as the opening slot, and you can only say, what a waste.
Lee is in ominous form; his raw pace can unsettle the best of batsmen on the deadest of wickets. Never write off Australia with their bowling spearhead showing signs of regaining his pre-2007 wicket taking ability.
Tait is another example of great talent wasted. What is it about today’s fast bowlers who don’t have the stomach to perform at the highest level, namely test matches? That said, Tait appears to have regained his confidence, and his pace, if nothing else, could prove decisive in a crunch situation.
Bollinger must rank as the most underrated bowler in the world. He doesn’t have pace, a quality you’d expect to see in an Australian new ball operator. But take a good look at his economy rate and wicket taking ability, qualities that will come in handy on the batsmen friendly wickets of the sub-continent.
In the end, it will boil down to how well Australia do in three games, starting with the quarter-final. As he prepares to lead his team’s bid for four-in-a-row, Ponting will count on the absence of expectation, as his biggest ally.