With Australian players firing on all cylinders ahead of the 2019 World Cup, coach Justin Langer believes a couple of players will be “brutally unlucky” to miss out from the 15-man squad for the premier event.
Australia have put their long-standing worries to rest by winning eight ODIs on the trot, including three against India and five against Pakistan, all away from home.
It bodes well for the defending World Cup champions, especially given that their series win over India was their first in the format in over two years. The resurgence, however, comes with its own challenges.
Do Smith and Warner face a battle to get into the Australian World Cup squad?https://t.co/ybct9KgLkN
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) March 29, 2019
With David Warner and Steve Smith available again, having completed their 12-month bans for ball-tampering, the batting line-up may have to be rejigged.
Then there are the bowlers. The absence of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood was barely felt as Australia’s fresh-look fast-bowling group made their opportunities count.
Jhye Richardson impressed against both India and Pakistan, before dislocating his shoulder, although he is recovering well and should be in the mix for World Cup selection. Nathan Coulter-Nile, who has been in fine form, will also trouble the selectors.
"This claim is disappointing on a number of fronts but most importantly because it is false"
Australia's bowlers are NOT happy with the rumours that have been flying around the 2018 Johannesburg Test 👇https://t.co/dXe3y0IMSQ
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) March 31, 2019
“It’s actually becoming more obvious by the day to me,” said Langer, when asked of the progress on the World Cup squad. “The same with the other selectors. It becomes more clear as you watch games. That’s why games are so important. There’s obviously going to be a couple of really disappointed players. But that’s the tough business we’re in.
“We know categorically there are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky not to get selected because they’re all going so well… the blokes in the squad at the moment will be praying it’s not them.”
Australia’s biggest worry, however, is with the openers’ slots. Do they stick with Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch at the top of the order? Both scored plenty in the recent series in UAE. Or do they opt instead for Warner, who is making merry in IPL 2019?
Langer admitted one of the three may have to be accommodated in the middle order. “Aaron has had a really good partnership with David Warner. This partnership’s blossoming between Aaron and ‘Uzzie’ at the moment,” said Langer. “David has shown he’s a very versatile player, Uzzie’s batted three a number of times, Finchy’s batted in the middle order. Versatility’s important.”
As for the bowling line-up, Langer is pleased with how the new batch of players have stepped up. “What’s most pleasing is a lot of other guys have stepped up,” Langer said. “The emergence of Jhye Richardson. We see the talent of Nathan Coulter-Nile. We see the left arm of Jason Behrendorff.
“We saw Kane Richardson’s last over, (it) was just absolutely brilliant. You need really good bowlers at the death. There’s actually some good depth of talent now. It’s not just about three bowlers.”