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Australia punished by murphy's law in a horror WC start

Last updated on 13 Oct 2023 | 02:48 AM
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Australia punished by murphy's law in a horror WC start

Questions galore as the five-time World Champions start the 2023 World Cup on a terrible note, with a lot of loopholes in captaincy, selection and team balance being exposed with two demolishing defeats on the trot

Two consecutive World Cup games. 

Two consecutive <200 totals. 

Two consecutive games where not a single batter scored even a half-century. 

Two consecutive massive defeats. 

This is not how one imagines a five-time world champion side to be. 

Or forget that. 

This is not how one imagines one of the Big 3s performing in a World Cup. 

But Australians have been obliterated in their first two games. They look toothless, and even if they make a 1999 World Cup-like comeback from here, questions need to be asked about all the malaise that is ailing the Kangaroos. 

Pat Cummins has captained Australian ODI team only six times so far. The selectors believed in him over other notable players like Steve Smith. However, in these six games (despite the small sample size), Cummins's average with the ball is 36.75 with an economy of almost 6 RPO. In the matches he hasn’t played as captain, he averages 28.04 and leaks just 5.21 runs per over. 

It could be a case of correlation not implying causation, as the sample size is small. However, Cummins, the bowler, is going through an identity crisis in ODIs. He’s great in Test matches, averaging in the low 20s and already counted as a modern great for Australia. 

However, in ODI cricket recently, it feels like he is the weakest link in his team’s bowling attack, and if anyone needs to be dropped to strengthen it, Captain Cummins should ideally be that candidate. Alas, as he’s the skipper, that will hardly happen. It doesn’t matter if his bowling in all phases of the game has been drier than the Thar, and most of his variations have gone for runs. 

It could be due to the in-betweenness of ODIs as a format or just simply because of how physically taxing it is, but Pat Cummins, the skipper has failed to lead his team with an example, and it shows in the overall morale of the team. ‘Morale’ isn’t a metric you worry about in the case of Aussie teams, but after being vanquished in this fashion, such questions feel natural. 

Sadly, Australia’s problems don’t end with their captain. They start! 

Travis Head is a player whose selection in the World Cup despite being injured has raised some eyebrows. Why won’t they, if he’s sitting in Adelaide waiting to be used in the latter part of the tournament while an important spot in the squad of 15 remains occupied but unused? Australia needed another specialist spinner in their squad or even a left-arm orthodox like Ashton Agar. However, in the current situation, they can’t, and that’s why someone like Glenn Maxwell has to play the role of the second specialist spinner. 

With Adam Zampa being out of form recently, Maxwell’s bowling is a boon for Australia, but from Zampa’s end, the Kangaroos are not getting the support they need and, hence, have struggled to pick up wickets in the middle overs. And that’s a matter of big concern as Australia has played in Chennai and Lucknow in this World Cup, where the ball has done a bit off the pitch. 

Once you combine the spinner issues with Pat Cummins, you’ll realise why the Kangaroos have recently struggled with the ball. Sadly, the problems lie with their lower-order batting as well. 

Alex Carey has just one fifty (the 99 in Centurion) in the last 22 games, averaging 20.55 with the bat in 2023. His poor run with the bat has made Australia do the most un-Australia thing ever - dropping a player just after the first World Cup game. Carey is not alone at fault in the lower order. Marcus Stoinis’s last ODI fifty came in March 2019. Since the last World Cup, he is averaging 17.53 with the bat.

Hence, despite being a team choke full of all-rounders and lower-order hitters, Australia haven’t been able to press on the gas in the death overs as much as they would have liked. 

All these issues were there to be seen in yesterday's game, where the Men in Yellow were being severely punished by Murphy’s law, with everything that could go wrong going wrong for them. 

Also read - Injury nightmare casts long shadow over Australia's WC aspirations

Pat Cummins gave 71 runs in his 9 overs and returned wicketless. Zampa, the lead spinner, gave away 70 in his full allocation, picking a solitary wicket. That’s two main bowlers of Australia being absolutely belted on the day. Despite Maxwell, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc’s relatively much better spells (the latter two being a bit expensive), the Proteas could push through and cross 300 on a tricky track. 

To add to their woes, as many as five South African catches were dropped by the Australians in the field - another thing you won’t find Australians doing in a World Cup! 

If their bowling and fielding were sub-par, their batting innings was a nightmare. Their openers - Marsh and Warner - were trying to bludgeon the ball on a slow track and couldn’t time anything. Steven Smith got the most contentious DRS call, along with Stoinis, and a South African pace attack on a rampage just pulverised others. 

As far as clinical victories go, this was a brutally conducted evisceration by the Proteas. 

In the past World Cups, when Australia has lost their first two games, they’ve ended up exiting the tournament in the group stages. With Australia’s next two games being in Lucknow (against Sri Lanka) and Bangalore (against Pakistan), the tough times aren’t ending for them. 

However, There’s still a long way to go in the tournament, and for now, at least, the Kangaroos would hope to regroup and slap themselves awake from the nightmare of a rare terrible World Cup start. 

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