Australia ready for World Cup defence?

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Tom Maston from Maston in the Middle takes a look at Australia’s limited overs squad and prospects for the upcoming World Cup.

With the Ashes over, Australia are now turning their attention towards the One-Day series with England and the World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which follows the series in February. With World Cup squads having to be named in a week’s time, Australia’s selections for the opening one-day games against England have given us a few clues surrounding what team will be on the plane to the sub-continent.

Starting with the openers, it would only take a serious injury for Shane Watson not to open the batting. The limited overs format suits his hard hitting style and he will have to perform if Australia are to retain the trophy they have held for 12 years.  His medium pace bowling could also come in handy on the slow, low pitches that can be found on the sub-continent.

Since Adam Gilchrist burst onto the international scene, many teams now have a wicket-keeper as their opening batsman in the 50-over format. Since Gilly’s retirement Australia have continued this tradition and this doesn’t seem like changing given their recent selection. Brad Haddin is the only man in squad who could open the innings. He seems to have been given the nod over Tim Paine, although both could make the trip to Asia.

Despite his lack of form, I would be very surprised if Ricky Ponting wasn’t batting at number three when he returns from his finger injury. However, for the time being it looks as if David Hussey will take the captain’s place in the side. Hussey averages less than 30 in his 23 one-day internationals, but a good performance against England could give Ponting some sleepless nights.

The rest of the middle-order almost picks itself, with Michael Clarke, Cameron White and Mike Hussey unlikely to be dislodged before cricket’s premier tournament. The likes of Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja could gain places in the squad, but are unlikely to make the team unless there are injuries.

The make up of the rest of the team is still a mystery. Many may predict that Steve Smith will bat at seven due to his leg spin bowling, which should come in handy on the spinning wickets of the sub-continent. Whether he will take up that position for the England series is yet to be seen.

The other bowlers who have been named in the squad have everything to play for. Mitchell Johnson’s lower order batting will most probably see him into the side, whilst Shaun Tait’s pace is almost unrivalled in world cricket.

The third seamer’s position looks as if it will be fought out by Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger. Despite Siddle’s impressive Ashes series, Bollinger seems to be more in favour with the selectors when it comes to the one-day game.

The one position which has gained the most headlines is that of the spinner. Nathan Hauritz’s inclusion shows that he is still on the selectors’ radar, despite him being overlooked for the Ashes series. He will fight for his position with the much maligned Xavier Doherty, who wins a place in the squad after impressing in the one-day matches against Sri Lanka, which preceded the Ashes.

With seven matches to choose the right combination of players to retain the trophy, Australia’s selectors have a big job to do. The squad they have picked shows that are willing to back players who are tried and tested, and only time will tell whether this will reap the rewards of a fourth consecutive World Cup.

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