'Home-team pressure crucial for Australia'
Australia are by far the most successful team in World Cup history, having won four and reached the finals in two others over the ten tournaments played so far. In the second episode of Contenders, former South Africa captain Graeme Smith and former India captain Rahul Dravid reflect on the chances of the current Australian team to add to that imposing record. Will the pressure of playing a home World Cup tell on the team, like it did in 1992 when Allan Border's team failed to qualify for the semi-finals? Will the uncertainty over Michael Clarke's fitness be disruptive? Will the lack of an attacking spin bowler hurt them? Or can this young outfit rise to the occasion?
What they said about…
Uncertainty over Clarke
Smith: It is a hard pressure environment and Michael has been an outstanding captain but is more of an abrasive personality within the squad. It's going to be interesting to see now that they've been under Steven Smith for the last three-four months, if Michael moves back into that space how that shifts the personality of the team.
Dravid: Without him [Clarke] being in the squad and you just bring Steven Smith into it, they don't look a weaker side at all. In fact, some people might argue they actually look a better side.
Australia's World Cup legacy
Smith: Certainly in my World Cup experiences in 2003 and 2007, they had the dominant team in the World Cup. Everyone else had to play that much better to beat them and compete with them and they went on and won those World Cups pretty easily.
Dravid: How they deal with that pressure [of a home World Cup] is going to be as important because they've got the players and the skill sets to be able to win this World Cup, it's just how they manage the pressure around being the home team.
George Bailey as stand-in captain
Smith: I think he is the guy who has a calm head as well, he's got a good demeanour around him and he seems to be probably the most balanced cricketer able to play both roles, get them out of trouble and then be able to take the game on when need be.
Dravid: We've seen him captain as well in the IPL in the T20 format, I know that's different. But, he's just shown that he has an ability to stay calm under pressure and he's good tactically as well. He's a good tactician. You can also sense that he has the respect of his team as well.
David Warner's patchy ODI record
Dravid: Maybe at times he's almost felt his role is to go out there and just play his shots all the time and blast the opposition in one-day and T20 cricket, whereas in Test cricket obviously with the field up, it's given him the opportunity to find the gaps and to be able to score runs.
Smith: You'll probably find he gets a lot of starts, some 20s and 30s, but when the field starts to shift around and it becomes more about balancing that tempo between being able to rotate the strike and hit the boundaries, I think that's the challenge for him now moving forward in his career.
Mitchell Jonhson's role
Smith: He's a wicket-taker for them and that's the way they've got to use him. They've got other guys who can cover those roles, and they'll probably use him in that way.
Dravid: We've seen that even in the IPL at times, he's not as effective at the death or you can get the best out of him the fact that he is quick and he can swing the new ball, he can take wickets for you upfront. You're almost going to see Australia probably try and use a lot of his overs before the last five-six overs.
Leaving Nathan Lyon out
Smith: I think the problem that they had with Nathan Lyon is that he doesn't offer too much else. In the field he's probably a little bit slow, with the bat he's not going to offer too much. So they've gone for the bits and pieces.
Australia's opening match versus England
Dravid: This is the kind of World Cup that gives you time to recover and come back. So it's not such a big concern. But it's always nice to beat England and at the MCG it would be brilliant. I think for the home fans it'll be incredible and they'll just get right behind them.