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February 4, 2011
Australia will use their third one-day international captain of the season on Sunday, but this time the change has been made from a position of strength as the home side's season draws to a close in far better shape than it began against Sri Lanka, in Perth, during October.
Cameron White takes the reins with the team 5-1 up and Australia's momentum building nicely ahead of their tilt at a fourth consecutive World Cup. The other captaincy changes - when Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke shared the role against Sri Lanka and then when Clarke took the job from the injured Ponting - have been at times with severe question marks over the side. All is certainly not right with Australian cricket just because of five one-day victories in three weeks, but the panic button isn't being pressed as rapidly as it was a month ago.
Like England, who travel back home then straight to the World Cup, there is a swift turnaround for Australia over this next week. The players will leave Perth straight after the final ODI and head to Melbourne for the Allan Border Medal before departing for the subcontinent a few days later. They have two warm-up matches against India and South Africa ahead of their opening group game against Zimbabwe on February 21.
Although that match is just two weeks away Australia are focussed on making this series a 6-1 scoreline before thinking too much about the challenge ahead. "It's definitely in the back of people's minds, or getting towards the front of their minds," White said. "Everyone has one eye on it but this is an important game. There's a bit of chat about it but there's a bit of preparation to go before we get into that side of things."
It's a new-look Australian outfit that will take the field in Perth with Clarke and Shane Watson rested while Ponting and Mike Hussey are still sidelined with injury. It has meant a recall for Adam Voges and an ODI debut for Jason Krejza, but White believes the change in personnel will help Australia's push for another victory.
"I'm confident this team can win. We are in good form and the bowling group is pretty much the same," he said. "It's a fresh outlook, we can go and play with a freedom and give it a crack. I don't think we've been at our best. In the last game we batted out of our skins but didn't bowl very well. We've been a little bit off in some areas and it would be nice to combine a good game. That's a challenge in itself."
There has been some disgruntlement in Western Australia about the resting of key players, which will deny a sell-out WACA crowd the chance to watch a resurgent Clarke and the powerful Watson, but White said the decisions was taken for the bigger picture of the World Cup.
"I can understand [the disappointment] but at the same time I think the public understand that it's five Tests, six or seven one-day games and a couple of Twenty20s leading into such an important series. It's an opportunity to give those guys a bit of a freshen up after they have played the whole summer to make sure they are ready for the biggest one-day competition in the world."
It's been the toughest season for Australia since their slump in the 1980s as the Ashes were conceded with three crushing innings defeats, key players suffered injury and form loss and the whole structure of the game has been brought under the spotlight.
There remain many tough questions to answer and injury clouds hang over vital figures as the countdown to the World Cup continues, but a series-ending victory in Perth would rubber-stamp a month of one-day cricket that has been more productive than many people thought possible.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala