The defending champions Australia have announced their 15-member squad for their title defense at the World Cup 2019
The memories of 90,000 people on their feet at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground cheering on Steve Smith who hit the winning runs in the 2015 World Cup will be afresh in the minds of the Australian fans. However, things have not gone particularly well for them since then.
Australia have tried over 40 different players since 2015 in one-day internationals. They even slipped to number 6 in the team rankings before they took on India in February-March this year - their lowest since 1984.
While the retirement of big guns like Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin etc did not help, the ball-tampering saga added considerably to their woes. The one-year ban on their two key players dented their confidence which led to ineffective planning and poor execution in pressure situations.
But now they seem to have left that tough period behind them, scripting historic ODI series victories against India and Pakistan. With eight ODI wins on a trot, they are back in form and roaring again. Moreover, they know how to win World Cups; if you are writing them off, do it at your own risk!
With the inclusion of Steve Smith and David Warner and an in-form Aaron Finch taking charge, the squad is looking as strong as any in the tournament:
Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner and Adam Zampa.
However, there are a few players who will feel really disappointed to have missed out. Here's a look at three of them:
#1 Peter Handscomb
Peter Handscomb has scored 479 runs in 12 innings in 2019 at an average of 43.54. He has been in red-hot form and has played key roles in the Australian victories in recent times.
Handscomb is rated highly for his ability to play spin well and change gears as and when required. He is unorthodox yet effective.
When India toured Australia earlier this year, the young keeper-batsman had a dismal Test series. However, he redeemed himself with a good ODI series scoring 151 runs in 3 matches.
He followed that up with an exceptional performance in the ODI series against the Indians in their own backyard. He scored 236 runs in 5 innings, including a hundred in Australia's highest-ever successful run chase in ODIs.
The selectors have gone for the experience and reputation of Smith over Handscomb. But they have also gone for four pacers apart from Marcus Stoinis, and may be a batsman short in the absence of Handscomb.
Now that he has been omitted from the squad, Australians will be hoping they don't miss him as a back-up keeper option if Alex Carey suffers a niggle.
#2 D'Arcy Short
D'Arcy Short, the swashbuckling left-hander, was the leading run-scorer in the Big Bash League for two consecutive seasons. However, he has failed to replicate those performances at the international level.
Short has had his issues against spin which was evident through his struggles in IPL 2018 and so, in the following season, he went unsold.
He has the talent and the skill, but the Australian selectors were looking for more consistent performances. Short has been looked at as a T20 specialist as he has played just four ODIs compared to 20 T20Is for Australia.
Moreover, the Australian selectors couldn't have included so many openers in the squad. They already have three of them: Aaron Finch, David Warner and Usman Khawaja.
Warner, who is the current Orange Cap holder in the IPL 2019, and Khawaja, who is the second highest run-scorer in ODIs in 2019 so far, have sealed their spots on the back of some match-winning performances. That meant Short had to miss out.
#3 Josh Hazlewood
He has been a key part of the successful trio including Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. However, in ODIs, he has recently not been as penetrative as he is in Tests.
Hazlewood also experienced a shoulder injury in January this year and did not play any cricket thereafter. So he may be a little rusty as well.
The selectors have gone for the young Jhye Richardson instead, who is having a year to remember so far. Richardson has got pace, bowls well at the death and can bat too. He was impressive in the ODIs against India recently, and although he pulled his shoulder in the UAE, he is expected to be fit for the World Cup.
Hazlewood has also been overlooked for the young Jason Behrendorff and the experienced Nathan Coulter-Nile, who have also been highly impressive in recent times.