I am not 100% happy with the squad, mainly because it has Behrendorff who will only play to give other fast bowlers a rest, and Shaun Marsh I doubt will play a single game.
But other than that it’s pretty much our best squad. The whole Carey vs Wade question was about batting versus keeping, and Carey is the better keeper so there is merit to play him. It probably comes down to consistency anyway. Since Carey has been the keeper lately it’d be disruptive to play Wade now.
The bigger issue will obviously be Warner and Smith. In the IPL Warner has been incredible, probably player of the tournament level, while for most of the past year Smith has been phenomenal.
I think that in the big stage they should come good, but maybe not in the very first match, though that is against Afghanistan.
The same 13 will play in all matches, bar when Behrendorff plays to allow the fast bowlers to rest. It will just be a question of fast bowlers versus spinners and whether or not they want an extra all-rounder in Nathan Coulter-Nile. NCN isn’t all that good but in the right conditions his big late order hitting is useful. He offers that flexibility.
Australia should have no trouble with beating the 3 lower teams in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and realistically Pakistan is unlikely to cause too many problems either.
New Zealand will be tough but with the inclusion of Smith and Warner expect Australia to cruise past them.
The 6th win they need will be against West Indies, which is tough, and I certainly don’t think it’s an automatic win, but, again, with Smith and Warner, I think that Australia will be favourites.
Then we come to the big 3, of India, England and South Africa, all teams who are good enough to beat Australia even with Smith and Warner playing. That’s where it will be tough for Australia.
Somehow, Australia beat India 3-2 in India recently, and that confidence could push Australia over the line, as could the fact it is in England.
South Africa and England probably have better squads than Australia and should beat Australia, and the only reason Australia could beat either side is experience. In other words, I expect Australia to lose those matches in the group stages, and finish 3rd, but come the semi-finals that experience could push Australia over the line over perhaps England.
FIVE FEARLESS PREDICTIONS
(1) David Warner will be absolutely amazing,
and will challenge for best player of the tournament, as he has in the ongoing IPL. He might not quite get there but he will be up there, and will probably be Australia’s best player.
(2) Steve Smith will also be very, very good,
and will not disappoint in his comeback. While not naturally suited to ODIs, he is still a very, very good player in supreme form, and he will show to everyone his quality.
(3) The disruption from Warner and Smith’s bans won’t affect Australia.
While there will be heckling, especially from Australian fans, it won’t dominate things and won’t be the major headline.
(4) Shaun Marsh won’t play a match
and Jason Behrendorff will only play when the other fast bowlers need a rest. Otherwise the same 13 will play all matches, with a choice of fast bowlers or spinners, and whether they want a specialist bowler or Nathan Coulter-Nile the only questions. It will be a very steady team.
(5) Australia will make it all the way to the final, and lose.
It’s touch and go and Australia might miss the semi-finals entirely but if they do make it then expect their experience to shine through against other more nervous teams, but perhaps a runner up is on the cards.
Toughest opponents: England, South Africa.
Easiest opponents: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh
Best batsman: David Warner
Best bowler: Jhye Richardson
Danger match: West Indies. If Australia lose that, they might miss the semi-finals.