The remarkable turnaround and the rise of Men in Yellow
Not so long ago at the end of the Australian summer, it looked like Australian cricket was in shambles. The fans in Australia were angry and dejected. It seemed like a last Australian win had taken place ages ago. Australian cricket had never ever in their history gone on such a losing streak in ODIs.
Once the formidable supreme champions of world cricket, it looked like they had forgotten the art of winning games. On asking any Australian fan regarding when would the next win come, the reply would be, “Does Australia win in cricket these days?" The reply showed it all that the fans had started to lose hope.
The ex-cricketers in Australia had started to give other teams a chance to win the World Cup trophy. The fans were desperate to see the Men in Yellow back in winning ways. Nobody in world cricket was giving the defending champions of the World Cup to retain the title. The absence of their top two world-class players in Steve Smith and David Warner was also hurting their chances.
The Australian cricketers were themselves low on confidence. Australian cricket was in a sorry state at the end of the summer in January. It needed some introspection because it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Australia's next target was their overseas limited-overs tour of India of 3 T20Is and 5 ODIs. This tour began the much-awaited turnaround in Australian cricket. The new look side was constantly chopping and changing the team in hunt of their best formidable 15 to defend the World Cup title.
In came the likes of Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb who had a good Test recod but were somewhat not in the best of rhythms coming on the back of poor Test scores against India's historic overseas series win in Australia. Aaron Finch, the skipper didn't look in great nick and India had found out a way to throughout the Australian summer to get him out early. He had constantly been troubled by the inswinger trapping him before the wickets.
This tour gave a ray of hope for the Australian fans. This tour lifted the spirits of the players and gave back their self-confidence which had gone for a holiday. All of a sudden, every Australian player found back their long lost deserted form. After every match, there were plenty of positives for Australia and new headaches for team India.
The belief was back in the Australian camp in the first T20I against India where Australia huffed and puffed to a scratchy win chasing 126 in a T20 thriller. The last ball finish from Pat Cummins gave the team the much-needed belief that they can turn things around in their favor provided they show the right intent. The Herculean task of beating India didn't look unachievable after that win. This win played a pivotal role in lifting Australian cricket back on track. The real Australians had arrived back in style. The players mustered confidence from this win and went to win defeat India in the ODI series 3-2 in India’s own backyard.
Suddenly, now this new look Australian team stood a chance of retaining the World Cup Trophy with several star performers for the team in the form of Khawaja who led the batting charts with 383 runs in 5 ODIs at a staggering batting average of 76.60. Handscomb scored his maiden ODI hundred to solve the key Australian middle order woes. Glen Maxwell, with his cameos, was providing the finishing touches to the team giving the bowlers a formidable total to defend.
The team had unearthed a new aggressive all-rounder in the form of Ashton Turner who in his Mohali knock of 84 from 45 balls showed the world what he is capable of.
Pat Cummins was the star performer with the ball for Australia troubling the Indian batsman with his pace and nagging accuracy. He was the tormentor in chief of Indian batting taking 14 wickets in just 5 ODIs. Adam Zampa, the leg spinner troubled Virat Kohli on a consistent basis. Every time Finch needed the wicket of the Indian skipper, he would look at Adam Zampa and the leggie would deliver. He dismissed Kohli twice in the series at crucial moments in the match thereby leading Australia to a crucial win.
However, all problems were not solved by the end of this tour. The Australian skipper, Finch was not back at his devastating best and questions were raised whether he is the right man to lead Australia at the World Cup in hindsight. Shaun Marsh was poor in the ODI series against India.
However, all these problems looked sorted when Australia whitewashed Pakistan in Australia’s five-match ODI tour of Pakistan in UAE. Finch roared back to form scoring 2 ODI hundreds and was also named the player of the series. Marsh also made vital contributions. Not so long ago the team that looked in shambles looked like they were now ready to defend the title.
The return of the star duo Warner and Smith would mean that the once fragile Australian batting order now had the problem of plenty with whom to pick and whom to drop. The skipper had made it clear that there would be some unlucky players to be missing out on the plane to England. Handscomb became the unfortunate player to miss out on the World Cup squad when the same was announced by Australia earlier this week.
This remarkable turnaround in Australian cricket can be attributed to the first T20 win against India from where the belief and confidence of the Australian camp changed and now they are on the right track to retain the World Champions tag.