I really didn’t think I’d be speculating on this. Not so long ago, with the Aussies pulping England in the Ashes series and then destroying both England and New Zealand in the tri-nations one day series league games, it would have been a ridiculous question to ask. But now, with the World Cup just around the corner, there are serious cracks appearing in the armour of the invincibles.
First, from nowhere, England beat them three times; and did so reasonably comfortably to win the tri-nations tournament. And in the last six days, New Zealand have pulled off a quite stunning 3-0 whitewash. They condemned the Aussies to their first ten wicket defeat in a one day international and followed that up by chasing down 336 and then 346. Extraordinary stuff. And those last two defeats must really damage morale. Any side that scores 300+ must surely expect to win.
Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps Australia’s unshakeable belief in their ability has led them into complacency. I won’t accept injuries and players resting as reasons either. Every team suffers injuries. England were not at full strength their whole tour and in the last ODI, New Zealand had no Vettori, Oram or Bond. Key players. The team that takes the field must be the best available and be expected to perform. Anything else is unprofessional.
Here’s a match report of the last ODI NZ vs Aus
So will the Aussies still win the World Cup? They are a formidable team. At full strength a fantastic side. But they are coming off a run where no one was injured and no one out of form and are discovering they do not have the strength in depth they might have imagined. I’m not sure I’d make them out and out favourites now. For so long, their assumption that they would win was infectious and oppositions had beaten themselves before a ball was bowled. But now England and New Zealand have punctured the balloon.
Don’t get me wrong. Any side taking it easy against the Aussies will get slapped badly. But teams can now go against them knowing they are prone to pressure and are beatable. That blunts their most powerful weapon. I think the great thing is, it leaves the World Cup wide open. South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan. All can win it. England, West Indies and India? Not so sure but a run of form can take you a long way. They are dangerous sides with match winning players. And never discount Sri Lanka.
The Australian captain, Ricky Ponting has been talking big about his side scoring 400 in a one day international. He may get his wish. My question to him is: But will that be enough to win you the match, Ricky?