Now that Australian have named their 15-man World Cup squad, there has been a lot of chat about who the chosen 11 will be when they line up against Afghanistan on June 1st. Most of the debate has centered on the batting department, with either Shaun Marsh or Usman Khawaja set to miss out in the top order.
Both batsmen are very fine players that possess that enviable elegance that all left-handers seem to have. However, with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith to the national setup after the completion of their ball-tampering bans, and Aaron Finch’s sensational return to form in the UAE, it seems inevitable that one of them will be donning an orange bib and running the drinks on at the Bristol County Ground at the start of June.
At this moment in time, the consensus is that Khawaja will be the one to make way, which could be one of the more brutal 2019 World Cup selection decisions. The 32-year-old leads the way at the top of the international batting stats this year in ODI cricket, with 769 runs at an average of 59.15 and a strike rate of 83. The Australian selectors will have demanded Khawaja hit the ground running at the start of the World Cup year in order to secure his spot on the plane over to England.
Usman Khawaja over the last six days:
🗓 8 March: 104
🗓 10 March: 91
🗓 13 March: 100
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) March 13, 2019
What Khawaja has done is hit the ground with the same momentum of that of the retired Concorde during landing. No batsman in the Australian setup has stood up to the pressure of World Cup selection better than he has, but in a cruel way, it seems his form in the build-up to the showpiece in England will only be enough to land him a seat in the dressing room. That is the opinion at least of former Baggy Green opener Mark Taylor, after he rubbished Khawaja’s chances of playing at the World Cup.
As far as Taylor and a few others are concerned, the decision should come down to Shaun Marsh’s ability to cope with spin more effectively, which is odd, given that the World Cup is to be played in a place that historically lends itself to seam bowling. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore in white ball cricket in the UK, and if you needed further proof of that, just have a look at India’s 11/4 odds to win the World Cup in cricket betting. The secret’s out: the wickets are going to be slow and dry, which will suit the subcontinent teams down to the ground.
Whether that is enough to drop the inform Khawaja for Marsh remains to be seen but it could be deemed as over thinking by the selectors. Howeverm if you were to throw the voice of the legendary VVS Laxman into the debate, it may make sense after the Indian great called Marsh Australia’s ‘best player of spin‘.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 22, 2019
In and amongst this ongoing dilemma, the good news for Australian cricket is that their opening fixture of the World Cup is against Afghanistan, a team that they are expected to beat comfortably. At the same time, they’ll also be provided with an intriguing test for their batsmen, with the talented Rashid Khan’s leg-spin to contend with. For the defending World Cup champions, it may be a case of seeing how we go instead of starting as we mean to go.