Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tough as ... err... Balsa? Australian World Cup side needs variety

While Australia demolishes England in a meaningless seven match post-Ashes One-Day series, unexpected hope rises in a cricketing public. The World Cup is approaching and our boys - missing half the starters - are dismantling guys who embarrassed us in the Tests. Perhaps Australia really are a show to defend their World Cup honours? I mean, surely it could be worse? Absolutely it could - Beau Casson could wear a Baggy Green again. Or Chris Matthews. Or cricket's perpetual punchline Scott Muller.

But the World Cup squad of fifteen (link) doesn't exactly say "locked in", does it?

The team currently decimating the Englishmen comprises the bulk of the World Cup squad. What's concerning is it's attack, which offers about as much variety as a monk's dinner. By relying on One-Day luminaries Lee, Tait, Bollinger and Zoolander Johnson, the team has opted for pace over spin. The supporting all-round roles are filled the the team's hirsuteness bookends, man-beast John Hastings and waxer extraordinaire Shane Watson. Steve Smith also gets a guernsey but his spin bowling is on par with Cameron White's for penetration so is likely to be employed mostly as a low order pinch-hitter.

The incumbent spinner is Nathan Hauritz, the patient girlfriend to which CA selectors always return after stupid flings with the new blondes on the Domestic scene with big knockers: this time, Tasmanian Spin Bimbo Xavier Doherty. Without Hauritz - which due to injury may happen - Australia is likely to field a lineup of spinners as imposing as an mouse's member on the spin-friendly subcontinental pitches.

The pace attack looks threatening, boasting three of the world's fastest bowlers, each of whom is more - sorry - only effective in the shorter formats. Leaving behind versatility, what's most concerning is the fragility of the squad. At least five serious injury risks project as first-choice, as all of Lee, Tait, Bollinger, Hauritz, Ponting and Mike Hussey are either extremely injury-prone or under a cloud going into the tournament. The spearheads, Tait and Lee, despite being walk up starts for all or most of Australia's 115 ODIs since 2007, have a combined seventy appearances, due mostly to injury (Tait 26, Lee 44). While Johnson's physical capability is apparent, "Doug the Rug" has struggled with injury and form for the better part of six months now. Though none resemble Bruce Reid in height, ability or movement in the air, the Curse which struck him down appears to have targeted the Aussie fast men.

This World Cup is in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which by default means the toughest conditions in which cricket can be played. Lee's history of meltdowns in India and Bollinger's last six months don't inspire confidence in the attack; Tait remains unable to bowl more than sixty deliveries a year without his body crumbling into dust like at the end of an Indiana Jones movie. To preserve their spearheads, the spear-handle is going to have to bowl quite a bit, meaning Watson, Hastings, David Hussey and Michael Clarke can all expect to roll the arm over quite a bit, an each-way bet as to what comes out: flowers or fertilizer.

Apart from Hastings, Australia doesn't really sport too many genuine all-rounders but just batsmen who can bowl if needed. And their ability with the six-stitcher may just determine how successful Australia's World Cup will be.

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