Australia’s ODI side needs a revamp before the World Cup

You’d be forgiven for missing it, considering the buzz surrounding AFL finals at the moment, but Australia is playing cricket at the moment!

Yes, international cricket, at home, firstly against Zimbabwe and now against the 2019 World Cup beaten (well… maybe not to some) finalists New Zealand.

And what has been made abundantly clear to those who are watching it is just how far off from knowing their best team for next year’s World Cup Australia actually are.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the form of the captain.

Four single-digit scores in a row for Aaron Finch, three of them against Zimbabwe, and one against his old nemesis Trent Boult – it’s getting close to untenable now for Finch to continue to hold his spot in the XI.

Tactically brilliant he may be, but if he continues to be a walking wicket he simply cannot and must not continue to hold his spot in the side. It’s almost time for him to come out and make the decision for the selectors, as they don’t seem brave enough to do what has to be done.

Trent Boult of New Zealand celebrates taking the wicket of Aaron Finch of Australia during game one of the One Day International Series between Australia and New Zealand at Cazaly's Stadium on September 06, 2022 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Considering the likes of Travis Head and Ben McDermott both made runs in the top order against Pakistan, it’s not like there aren’t ready-made replacements for his spot. In fact, it’s probably one of the easier spots to fill amongst batsmen not currently in the ODI squad.

What is harder is to work out who replaces Finch as captain, but more on that later… for now let’s move on to the other major concern, Marcus Stoinis.

Stoinis may be escaping criticism due to the fact all eyes are trained on Finch, but his recent output in this format of the game makes for stark reading. He hasn’t hit a 50 in ODI cricket since 2019, and has 10 single-figure scores to his name beyond that score of 52.

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He has only hit the one century in his entire career and that came way back in his second match at Eden Park in 2017. He has had 47 innings in ODI cricket since.

So, it’s hardly like he hasn’t been given a chance. It was almost laughable seeing Stoinis come out to bat at No.5 in Cairns, two spots ahead of Cam Green. No one would consider Stoinis a better batsman than Green.

It’s abundantly clear that not all three of Green, Stoinis and Mitch Marsh can play in the same side, and Stoinis is making that particular selection a very easy call, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the squad that heads to India next year.

Now to the curious cases of Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and the forgotten man in ODI cricket, Usman Khawaja. As good as Smith and Marnus are in the long form of the game, I don’t see how both can hold down a spot in the middle order in Australia’s ODI side.

You can probably squeeze one in but certainly not both. They lack the power to move the game along in the middle overs. It’s something that England realised after the last World Cup with Joe Root.

It seemed criminal that he was keeping someone like Liam Livingstone out of the side and Root and the ECB agreed that he was better off focusing on his one wood, the red-ball form of the game.

Should CA consider having the same conversations with Smith and Marnus? Keep our two premier Test batsmen fresh, available and focused on upcoming red-ball tours to England and India? Perhaps this should be said to Marnus, and keep Smith as an option for the next World Cup, but he is no guarantee to be in the best XI.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

If that is indeed the consensus, only one name comes to mind as a replacement: Usman Khawaja.

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He is probably the most in-form batsman in Australian cricket and whilst he is also extremely important to out Test side, I feel he has that extra gear that Smith and Marnus don’t have that would make him an exceptional No.3, particularly with the subcontinent in mind.

Now to Cam Green. Blind Freddy could tell you he is batting too low in this side, his talent with the bat is being absolutely wasted at 7 or 8. It took a horror top order collapse for Green to finally get the opportunity he deserved, making a brilliant 89 not out on a tough track to show anyone who still had doubts just how good he is.

Make the No.4 or 5 spot his for the World Cup!

Thankfully, the bowling side looks potentially as settled as we’ve seen it.

Josh Hazlewood is making an absolute mockery of the selectors who decided he was a one-trick pony and picked Nathan Coulter-Nile over him for the 2019 World Cup. Hazlewood is now the first picked fast bowler in any limited overs side for Australia.

Mitchell Starc is still a bit feast or famine, but has been so his entire career, and if used correctly as a strike weapon rather than someone who contains, is still extremely valuable to the limited overs side.

Adam Zampa is fast becoming Australia’s most important bowler, and in India will have an absolutely crucial role to play.

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This brings us to Pat Cummins, the Test captain and premier fast bowler. He isn’t an absolute lock for the starting XI in next year’s World Cup.

With Cam Green proving to be a genuinely capable third seamer, and pitches likely to favour spinners, there is a possibility that Ashton Agar gets the nod ahead of Cummins, who is relegated to running the drinks. Horses for courses, as they say.

Now, finally, back to who captains.

There are a few options, and all of Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Mitch Marsh and Alex Carey have captaincy experience at domestic level. Pat Cummins of course is our Test captain and Steve Smith a former Test captain, but as noted above neither are necessarily walk-up starts.

However, there is one option that stands way above the rest, but it relies on Cricket Australia admitting they made a mistake, and winding back their lifetime leadership ban on David Warner.

Warner has done his time, and the punishment has already been extremely harsh, but in terms of tactical nous, safety of position in the side and experience in Indian conditions, no one has a better CV than Warner, and he would be my choice to take over from Finch as captain.

So, unpacking all of the above, here is my (far too long way out) recommendation for how Australia should line up when they their first match in India next year.

1. David Warner (c)
2. Travis Head

3. Usman Khawaja
4. Cameron Green
5. Mitchell Marsh
6. Alex Carey (wk)
7. Glenn Maxwell
8. Ashton Agar
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Adam Zampa
11. Josh Hazlewood

Reserves: Josh Inglis, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Ben McDermott

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