ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

Australia gamble on fear factor

The selectors have taken some risks with the make-up of their 15-man World Cup squad

Peter English

January 18, 2011

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

Brett Lee was a constant threat to the New Zealand batsmen, Australia v New Zealand, Champions Trophy final, Centurion Park, October 5, 2009
Brett Lee is back in action, but his comebacks since 2009 have all been short-lived © AFP

This is almost Australia's best available World Cup squad but it doesn't look good enough to claim a fourth successive trophy. In the glory years the team had players right through the order who would frighten opponents. In the current state they need someone - anyone - to deliver a scare, which is why the selectors have gambled on the fitness of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait

Over the past year the two fast bowlers have spent more time lining up for x-rays than representing their country. Lee has just appeared in three internationals in a week, which is now a huge load for his 34-year-old body.

He is in excellent health and his bowling is slippery rather than rapid, but even at peak fitness the selectors were worried about his tendency to break down. While it's wonderful to see Lee's on-field energy again, especially after another gruelling rehabilitation, all his comebacks since 2009 have been short-lived.

Like Lee, Tait, who is seven years younger, is a part-time bowler who doesn't let his body bother with first-class fixtures. He has a wretched injury history and the physical demands and mental anguish forced him out of the game after his last Test in 2008. Tait is now a master of the short burst, a man growing rich on Twenty20s, but one who has turned out in only three ODIs since February 2009.

Four years ago he was the equal second-leading wicket-taker at the 2007 World Cup with 23 victims, but don't expect him to play every game this time. His elbow gave way after the Champions League Twenty20 in September and sometimes when he bowls it appears his arm is being held together by strapping tape.

If Ryan Harris, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had been fit, both fast men would have been struggling to make the squad. Now Lee and Tait will be the side's lead weapons, ordered to operate at full power whatever the cost to their patched-up frames. An injury on the eve of the IPL would be costly in so many ways.

Australia's attack will also have the misfiring Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, who is struggling for fitness, and the allrounders John Hastings and Shane Watson. Peter Siddle is the unlucky one, although he has been used in small bursts of 50-over games during the past two years. He was the side's most consistent Test fast bowler, but has been relegated by Hastings' superior batting and the pace of Tait and Lee.

There are four other players in Australia's squad who qualify towards the top end of the frightening scale, but only Shane Watson and Cameron White are fit. And they are not as intimidating as their predecessors Hayden, Gilchrist, Symonds and Co. Ricky Ponting is nursing a broken finger and Michael Hussey tore his hamstring so badly in Sunday's win over England that he needed surgery. Neither will play in the rest of the current series and while there is no rush for them to be back, Hussey's prognosis is extremely worrying.

Australia have a sombre start to the tournament, facing Zimbabwe on February 21 and New Zealand on February 25 before a break of a week ahead of the Sri Lanka clash. There are seven teams in the group, including Kenya and Canada, with four going through to the quarter-finals from March 23. That will give Australia's bit-part players, like David Hussey, Steven Smith and Tim Paine, a chance to feel their way into their maiden World Cup.

Nathan Hauritz is rightly back as the No.1 spinner - there is no spot for Xavier Doherty - following his increasingly unbelievable snubs during the Ashes. However, the muddled thinking of the selection chairman Andrew Hilditch remains. Earlier in the month Hilditch said the selectors had done "a very good job" during the Ashes defeat.

Today he said Hauritz's "one-day record in India is excellent", a comment to be filed in his expanding pile of outrageous statements. While he was right to say Hauritz will play "an important part" in the side's push for another trophy, Hilditch has not taken note of the offpsinner's most prominent results in the country.

Hauritz has four wickets at 70.75 in seven ODIs in India. He has never played a T20 international there, and his performances in the two Tests in Mohali and Bangalore in October convinced the selectors he wasn't right to face England.

Instead Hilditch could have pointed to Hauritz's economy rate, which is a very handy 4.56, or said something about his tight control, or that he now brings improved batting skills to his essential bowling role. To call Hauritz's India record "excellent" shows how little knowledge the chairman has of his subjects.

Naturally, Hilditch also thinks the squad is good enough to win the tournament. Sadly, it's 2011, not 1999, 2003 or 2007.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 47 
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Posted by Matt on (January 21, 2011, 0:10 GMT)

"Naturally, Hilditch also thinks the squad is good enough to win the tournament. Sadly, it's 2011, not 1999, 2003 or 2007".

What a negative piece of journalism by Peter English. If he knew his history he would remember that the Aussies were far from favourites for the 1999 and 2003 world cups (South African and India respectively). Just look up the press and you'll see for yourself.

Also, what is this rubbish about a lack of "frightening" players?? You don't have to be scary to win matches Peter... There have been plenty of teams through history with entire squads of players who have not been very scary but have beaten sides again and again. I dont' recall Sri Lanka having many frightening players??

This Australian team is going to be very very hard to beat... I bet you will eat your words.

Posted by VaRUN on (January 20, 2011, 21:10 GMT)

I see lot of people saying pure pace will not work in the sub-continent. I advise them to go look at the score boards when Australia visited India for he 7 ODI series 18 months ago. Bollinger and Johnson uprooted Sehwag's and Gambhirs stumps out of the ground in every game.

Posted by Warrick on (January 20, 2011, 3:53 GMT)

Sadly oz selectors have missed a trick again & its indicative of the current administration. SL gave the Ozis a lesson in the 3 ODI's before the Ashes. Limited overs cricket is now about bowling with variations, mixing pace, using the crease, slower balls, bouncers & slower ball bouncers etc etc. You just can't come in put it on the spot anymore. You simply can't afford to bowl wides, no balls anymore. Granted the selectors hand was played for them with injuries to McKay, Harris etc. Still there are other bowlers who would be handy i.e. McDonald, Hopes & Christian. I could understand the pace barage if the tournament was in S.Africa where the pitches are abit bouncier. I hope Tait is going to bowl 50 yorkers or he will travel. Batting is about innovation & scoring with unconventional shots when the scoreboard is slow. Smith, White & Watson are a few who can do this. However,Oz expectation for this tournament will be low. Look forward to some good cricket though, SL look dangerous.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 20, 2011, 0:08 GMT)

Fear factor depends upon the type of wickets. Occassionally you may get a wicket on the subcontinent which may be seaming, but I can't see any wicket in India, SL or Bangladesh that will have bounce to give extra edge to Lee and Tait; something they need to be an impact weapon. Sheer pace will not cause much trouble for Indians or Sri Lankan batsmen. Obviously, in current state, Australians had no other choice but to try fear factor as a possible weapon; they have no other weapon left. No spinners worth talking about nor good swing/seam bolwers like McGrath/Fleming/Bracken who all were successful on the sub-continent. No bowler is good enough to exploit reverse swing. Plus their batting is down in dumps. At best, this Australian side is a "wishful thinking"; but one can never write off Aussie spirit. Thay are always up for a scrap and will not go away without a fight.

Posted by Andrew on (January 19, 2011, 23:51 GMT)

@landl47 - LOL! You never countered my point re: 2 Frontline spinners. Oz have never used them. The last 2 WCs were won with Hogg who was a useful part timer. A bit of discipline & some tight lines by the bowlers & Oz are alot better chance than the Poms who are relying on spin for the sake of spin in India. I don't think any Indians have much fear of Yardy, Swann & Treadwell, they'd be more worried about Anderson & co (they should be most worried about Shahzad as he looks the goods in ODIs). England should of gone with Tremlett instead of Broad (injury concern, sound familiar) or one of Yardy or Tredwell. Even the great SRT struggles in terms of S/R against short at the body bowling. If Watto can comfortably plonk Yardy deep into the stands at the MCG, SRT, Sanga & Jayawerdne will be giggling in their Pepsi's. I am glad the selectors have used some sort of PROVEN formulae because until lately there has been nothing but rudderless BS from them, this is a plan & it MIGHT work.

Posted by Shaneel on (January 19, 2011, 23:06 GMT)

fast bowlers win you matches, doesnt matter where you play...hence i think India will struggle becuase they have the weakest pace attack(not to mention the slowest) with guys likemunaf,nehra ..and bastmen like yusuf, raina and gambier will struggle and not score against fast/short bowling...i think underrate Australia at your own peril..this team could still win it!

Posted by Siddarth on (January 19, 2011, 21:09 GMT)

@shokat shah , the time when sachin got out and the batting tumbled ,IS HISTORY now ,INDIA are now a much more ballanced side ,and in indian conditions ! well they are 5 times more dangerous than the proteas at their backyard , so going through india would be quite a job for teams like england who at first need atleast 2 weaks to acclimitise!.....

Posted by John on (January 19, 2011, 17:26 GMT)

@Meety: I see you, like the Australian selectors, are living in the past. For the last few world cups the Australian bowling was led by the best limited over bowler ever, Glenn McGrath, who, as I recall, was the Man of the Series in 2007. Look at the scorecard for the 2007 final; in order of economy, the bowlers were Symonds, McGrath, Bracken, Hogg, Clarke, Tait and Watson. Now who are the only three playing in this World Cup? Why, it's Clarke, Tait and Watson! Clarke was the best of the three, which tells you something. Face it, this side has been picked in the hope that Tait and Lee will stay fit, Johnson won't be wild, Bollinger can rediscover his form and Australia won't need to rely on spin. If all those happen, Aus might have a chance, but seriously......

Posted by Lalith on (January 19, 2011, 13:51 GMT)

The world cup will be decided by the best fielding team not by batting or bowling. So my money is on Poms and next is SL. India will not past semis in the sub continent as happened in 1987 & 1996 because of the crowd factor. SA would not past either in big event as usual. Aussies hmmm no chance because of poor fielding. PAK may do some upsets. Black Caps & WI need more depth. BAN & ZIM may need miracles. So quarter finals would be any 8 out of 10. Semi - 4 out of ENG, SL, IND, SA, AUS, PAK Final - ENG & SL WC - ????? Player of the tournament: KP or double M

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 19, 2011, 12:50 GMT)

@Runster1 you have no idea what you are talking about. Malinga's low trajectory arm make it impossible to chuck and there is nothing wrong with Taits action either. Be careful on what you say this world cup can belong to any body who has potential. I feel on a right track these guys can shock even indian top order who are always uncomfortable against short pitch quick deliveries . It not just tait & lee there is also Mitchell Johhson who is also very quick. But it is their batting that is extremely poor at the moment. Even in Ashes i always felt it is their batting that put them down.

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