Captain: Michael Clarke/George Bailey
v/s England (Feb 14th)
v/s Bangladesh (Feb 21st)
v/s New Zealand (Feb 28th)
v/s Afghanistan (Mar 4th)
v/s Sri Lanka (Mar 8th)
v/s Scotland (Mar 14th)
Team Australia. 4-time World Champions. Thrice in a row (99, 03, 07)
Arguably the greatest cricketing nation of all time. The most dominant ODI team in World Cricket.
And yet again, favorites. This time, on home turf.
In 1996, Australia were beaten by Sri Lanka in the final at Lahore. They came back from the dead in 1999 and defeated Pakistan in the final. They destroyed everyone in 2003, including India in the final. They exacted revenge over Sri Lanka in the 2007 Final. They have bested subcontinent teams in most big matches, except in the 2011 World Cup. They have 4 World Cups. The next best is India with 2, and West Indies with 2. They remained unbeaten from the 1999 Group Stages (Pakistan) until the 2011 Quarterfinals (India) in World Cup cricket. Ricky Ponting and co. dominated more than a decade. But things have changed. They are more exciting now, because they’re one of the rest, and still manage to be better than the rest. They’re not to be taken lightly.
We’ve heard this before. Australia enter a World Cup as the top contender. But not many expected this after the 2011 World Cup, when they were knocked out by India in the quarterfinals. Not many expected it after a lean period in which they dropped to 5 in the Test Rankings, and were struggling as an ODI team without Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden or any of their past champions. Somehow though, just somehow, Michael Clarke has managed to keep them afloat in between World Cups, and even competitive at times, only so that they peak by 2015.
And peaking they are. Australia are fresh from a tri-series win against England and India. They destroyed both teams. They destroyed Pakistan in Sharjah in the ODI series. They are one of the top bilateral teams in world cricket. And even without an injured Clarke, under Bailey, they remain a threat. With Warner and Finch at the top, and the in-form Steve Smith to follow, and with Maxwell, Watson, Marsh and Bailey in the middle order, they are a formidable batting unit. Even if they fail, they have Mitchell Starc, who is lethal as a bowler in this format. They have the best ODI finisher and all-rounder in Faulkner. Cummins, Doherty and Hazlewood may lack experience, but they certainly don’t lack motivation. On their day, any of them can blow an opposition away, more so at home. Moreover, they are in the easier group which they are expected to top. However, they will know that New Zealand is their greatest threat. They can easily defeat England and Sri Lanka, but the Kiwis are the darkest horses in the history of dark horse tournaments.
X-Factor: James Faulkner
Surprise inclusion: Xavier Doherty
They could win the whole thing. Not again, though, surely? Only two teams can stop them: New Zealand and South Africa.
None of those two are big-tournament teams. Australia are the ultimate tournament team. The odds are in their favour. But stranger things have happened. All it takes is one bad day.
Or three good days.