Australia's Glenn Maxwell bats during their one day international cricket match against India in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Mal Fairclough)
Australia's Glenn Maxwell bats during their one day international cricket match against India in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Mal Fairclough)

Can Australia build a World Cup winner?

Who is a lock for Australia's 15-man World Cup squad?

'The Big Three' frontline quicks - Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood? Yes, although Hazlewood's back injury must have healed.

Shaun Marsh? Absolutely, after four tons from his past nine matches.

Glenn Maxwell is the most over-qualified No.7 in world cricket and would be odds-on to make the cut.

Captain Aaron Finch admitted he was the batting "weak link" against India, averaging just 8.6 runs as his weakness - balls targeting the stumps - was exposed.

But it would take another nightmare series for the clever captain with 11 ODI tons to fall out of the frame.

Finch has endured a wretched summer. Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images.
Finch has endured a wretched summer. Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images.

Marcus Stoinis looks a safe bet, despite his tendency to start slow with a strike-rate of only 65 after 10 balls.

Is there anyone else? Probably not.

Coach Justin Langer said Australia was "crystal clear" on its 50-over game plan, but with just 10 matches before flying to England the make-up is still fuzzy.

Who opens? Is it back to Aaron Finch and David Warner? Or does Alex Carey get another crack?

Could Peter Handscomb take the gloves? Or will Steve Smith force him out of the team? Who is our spinner? Are two required?

Are Smith and the switch-hitting Warner walk-up starts? Can we seriously win it without them?

Smith has undergone elbow surgery and Warner, who is losing the PR battle with the wider public, is about to do the same.

It's not quite Swiss cheese, but there are still a lot of holes.

 

 

THE ROAD TO ENGLAND

Two T20s against India (India)

Five ODIs against India (India)

Five ODIs against Pakistan (Dubai)*

April 23 deadline for submitting 15-man squad

*Smith and Warner eligible for some of these

 

Australia will rely heavily on their three quicks. Picture by Phil Hillyard.
Australia will rely heavily on their three quicks. Picture by Phil Hillyard.

WILL 'THE BIG THREE' SAVE US?

AUSTRALIA'S bowling at the death against India was poor but Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will stem the bleeding. Since winning the 2015 World Cup, Australia has won 19 games and lost 10 (65.5 per cent) when two or more of 'The Big Three' play but is only 10-24 (29.4 per cent) when one or none of them do. Cummins and Starc also add batting power to a tail that looked limp against India.

WHICH OTHER QUICKS WILL MAKE IT?

LANGER said Jhye Richardson was a "shining light" against India. The West Australian set up Australia's first win with 4/26 and dismissed Virat Kohli in all three matches.

Nathan Coulter-Nile is a white-ball regular when fit and his firepower at No.8 would spook some bowlers.

Jason Behrendorff and AJ Tye are in the background, while Peter Siddle won't be there and beanpole Billy Stanlake is still a work in progress.

Adam Zampa is in the lead to be the World Cup spinner. AAP Image/Joel Carrett.
Adam Zampa is in the lead to be the World Cup spinner. AAP Image/Joel Carrett.
 

WHO IS OUR SPINNER?

ADAM Zampa is in pole position. The leggie spun it both ways at the MCG on Friday, although Langer rates Nathan Lyon as the best offspinner in the world. England plays an offie (Moeen Ali) and a leggie (Adil Rashid) but both average more than 20 with the bat and Australia has traditionally never played twin tweakers.

Lyon and Zampa failed to jag a wicket against India and Australia desperately needs someone who can rip through batsmen in the middle overs.

Conditions will suit better in England, where 28 per cent of wickets have fallen to spin since the last World Cup, compared to 17 per cent in Australia. Zampa impressed for Essex last year, taking 12 wickets in nine T20 games.

As for the others? Shane Warne reckons Fawad Ahmed is our best legspinner and Cameron Boyce is in career-best form, while Mitchell Swepson has stagnated. There might only be room for one, plus part-timers.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE POWER-PLAY RED FLAGS?

AUSTRALIA scored at just 3.6 runs per over during the powerplay against India as Finch and Carey struggled against the two new balls. D'Arcy Short scored at 5.6 runs per over during JLT Cup powerplay and is again the BBL's leading run-scorer, averaging 52.6 with a strike rate of 139.4.

Short's clean ball striking is out of the Adam Gilchrist playbook, although countries are likely to load up with spinners at the World Cup - which is his weakness. Short's left-arm wrist spin has picked up a handy six wickets in the BBL and can't be discounted.

Six-machine Chris Lynn noted Australia opted for a "mix of class and power" against India and that new-look structure didn't include him. Surely it will include the switch-hitting Warner.

 

Should Australia take a chance on D’Arcy Short?glenn
Should Australia take a chance on D’Arcy Short?glenn

 

DO KHAWAJA AND HANDSCOMB SCORE TOO SLOWLY?

THE mild middle overs appeared a concern against India although that didn't overly bother Langer. Handscomb strikes at 93.6 and Khawaja at 84.6 in the middle and that is a long way short of the world's best.

Of the players to have faced more than 200 balls in that phase, England's Jason Roy strikes at 116, India's Hardik Pandya at 112.2 and South Africa's Quinton de Kock at 110.1.

England has posted 32 totals of 300-plus (41 per cent) since the 2015 World Cup, whereas Australia has done it just 15 times (23 per cent). On flat England pitches at small grounds, many suspect aggression will be the key. There is probably room for only one of Khawaja or Handscomb, particularly if Smith plays.

Langer said Handscomb was "excellent" against India while his back-up keeping option and strengths against spin further embolden his World Cup hopes.

 

Maxwell has performed well higher up the order in the past.
Maxwell has performed well higher up the order in the past.

 

IS MAXI WASTED AT No.7?

LANGER said No.7 was the "perfect" position for Maxwell and the numbers agree. But it is peculiar that at the 2015 World Cup Maxwell batted at No.4-6 and bowled more overs - he came in at 3/175 and spanked 102 (53) against Sri Lanka.

As Michael Vaughan noted, most captains would be "delighted" seeing Maxwell walk out at No.7. Maxwell boasts the second-best strike-rate in world cricket, behind Andre Russell, and stirs fear in bowlers when he is at the crease.

 

 

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