Image courtesy of: The Guardian
Watson’s lack of runs is a big worry for Australia
Having come off a dreadful run during the Champions Trophy, Australia are definitely looking like a team on the decline and ODI stand-in captain George Bailey has for once agreed with the pundits, admitting that the team’s confidence levels could not be any lower.
Australia were the defending champions heading into this year’s Champions Trophy as they won the tournament outright in 2009 under the guidance of Ricky Ponting.
However, this year, they failed to make the semi-finals and even finished at the bottom of Group B behind England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Australia have also been in the media spotlight for most of the Champions Trophy as Test captain Michael Clarke missed the entire tournament due to a reoccurring back injury and who can forget David Warner’s Rocky-style punch on Joe Root at the Walkabout bar in Birmingham on June 8.
Warner’s actions got him suspended till the start of the Ashes on July 10 and Clarke has been taking a very cautious approach towards the lead-up to the Ashes as he is determined to lead his side to victory against England in their own backyard.
Bailey believes the change of formats and fresh players coming into the side could provide the spark Australia so desperately need after a turbulent couple of months.
“There is probably not a great deal of confidence there,” Bailey said. “But it’s just a very different mindset, I think, going from a one‑day tournament to a Test tournament. I don’t think it’s mattered where sides have been ranked going forward or in the past.
“The Ashes just tends to bring out something special in both sides. Whatever can be written and said leading up into those games, but until that first Test and the result of that first Test, I think that will dictate how the summer plays out. I think there is a huge importance in the results of the first couple of Tests.”
One major red flag that was pinpointed throughout the tournament was the lack of runs scored by Australia’s top order batsmen, as Shane Watson finished with just 34 runs from three matches, while Phillip Hughes fared no better, scoring only 43 runs.
Warner meanwhile remained in single digits, finishing his Champions Trophy campaign with nine runs against England before being suspended for the last two matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
“All of these guys will have to put this tournament behind them whether they’ve scored runs or not, and just focus on going forward,” Bailey said. “That’s no different for an Australian player to any other international player. Everyone has form slumps, everyone has their ups and downs. As a team, I think there is a really big challenge that’s going to be ahead of them in the next couple of months. I think what Australia have done this time is they’ve got a really good preparation.
“I think a couple of the guys, the batters from this group, will maybe even join up and play the Australia A game that’s due to start later this week. So, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for those guys to get some match practice in. Plenty of opportunity to get lots of practice against the Dukes balls in.”
However, all is not lost for Australia as one player showed some encouraging signs throughout the Champions Trophy.
Tasmania all-rounder James Faulkner scored a half-century and took three wickets, which prompted Bailey to endorse the 23-year-old as Australia’s surprise weapon for the upcoming Ashes series.
“Faulkner has been really impressive,” Bailey said. “I think it’s been good to have a lot of guys over here playing a lot of cricket in the lead‑up to the Ashes. So it’s not necessarily just on the Champions Trophy group, but a lot of guys that have been playing county cricket,” Bailey said. “Obviously, the Australia A groups are over here. The Champions Trophy boys that have been here for a number of weeks have been getting used to the conditions, different colour ball and different format. But all of that plays a part in getting settled in. So I think all of those things will take some positives out of.”