Australia still have a “lot of questions to answer” before their opening World Cup match, according to captain Aaron Finch, but being able to call on the experience of six previous winners in their 15-man squad could be a key factor as they attempt to defend their title and claim the tournament for the sixth time.
The squad completed their Brisbane camp with the third match against a New Zealand XI on Friday, Steven Smith hitting an unbeaten 91 and Glenn Maxwell a flamboyant 70. They then went straight to the airport to fly to Turkey for a visit to Gallipoli, a trip that Steve Waugh’s 2001 Ashes side had undertaken too. From there, they reach London in the middle of next week ahead of their final warm-up period before opening their campaign on June 1 against Afghanistan in Bristol.
Finch, one of the six players who were part of the 2015 triumph on home soil, along with Smith, Maxwell, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, said a World Cup is a “different” experience from the bilateral series that form most of a players’ career.
“I think it’s a big advantage, just to know what it takes to win a World Cup and what it takes to manage your way through a campaign which can be difficult,” Finch said. “You have to be at your best at the business end but you can’t afford to let anything slip at the start. Six guys who have been there and done that will give a lot of experience to the others of what to expect, what to feel walking out there because it is different.
“When you talk so much about it, when it finally happens it’s a relief to be looking forward. The fact everyone is together and getting on great, the boys are pumped to ramp up the preparations. It really is the time of your life a World Cup so that will be awesome.”
Australia are not favourites for the tournament but are in much better shape than they were just a few months ago, having strung together eight wins in a row away against India and Pakistan. However, the final build-up, dominated by the return of Smith and Warner, has filled in all the blanks with the batting order, though bowling combinations are yet to be firmed.
They used three different opening partnerships in the three matches in Brisbane as well as other tweaks to the order. It remains likely that Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh are playing off for one position.
“I think it’s just about giving everyone an opportunity at the top of the order to get some game time as much as anything,” Finch said. “I think it’s a good opportunity to mix and match and with the three games in the UK we might keep everyone guessing a bit, but the honest answer is, no, we don’t have a definitive answer on what that will look like at the moment. There are a lot of questions still to be answer but we are in a great place to do that.”
Finch was the only one to score a half-century opening the innings in the three matches with Warner not quite able to continue his serene progress from the IPL. Smith produced the two most significant innings of the week with his brace of unbeaten knocks.
“His [Smith] timing and class was back again,” Finch said. “It was like he hadn’t left. His drives down the ground on a really difficult wicket to time off the front foot was so impressive, just the amount of time he spent in the middle and how he went through the gears was very impressive.”
Smith was also active in offering advice to the captains, Finch in the first two matches and Alex Carey in the last one, with the team happy to lean on the experience of their former captain and Warner, the former vice-captain.
“They are two of the best players in the world which is valuable to have at your disposal,” Finch said. “The boys have been brilliant. All the work off the field with the team has been great. It’s an interesting time, no doubt, when they are coming back in but still a great opportunity for everyone to learn off them as well. They have so much experience and what they bring to the group is really valuable.” (ESPNCricinfo)