With the Indian Premier League (IPL) coming to an end and the New Zealand tour to England well underway, the next big clash prior to the 2013 Ashes is the final addition of the ICC Champions Trophy. The tournament will no longer be hosted come the conclusion of it in England and the ICC World Test Championship will take over its place in the cricket calendar. We are the reigning champions with two titles to our name.
Most eyes will be on the Ashes squad, which I have reviewed, but I'd like to turn some attention to our limited overs squad that will be playing to ensure we hold onto the trophy.
The majority of the Australian cricketers playing in the Champions Trophy or Ashes series will be leaving Australia this weekend to get prepared for some action packed cricket in England over the next few months.
Below is our 15 man-squad for the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
- Michael Clarke (Captain)
- George Bailey (Vice Captain)
- David Warner
- Phillip Hughes
- Shane Watson
- Adam Voges
- Glenn Maxwell
- Mitchell Marsh
- Matthew Wade (Wicket keeper)
- Mitchell Starc
- Clint McKay
- James Faulkner
- Mitchell Johnson
- Nathan Coulter-Nile
- Xavier Doherty
I will be looking at a SWOT analysis regarding our team culture heading into this event and the individual players.
We go into the Champions Trophy as the title holders (2006 and 2009). Having said this, our limited overs side has seen dull patches over the last handful of seasons and a slip down the ranks since the limited overs series post the 2009 Ashes series, although we still have a good victory margin of 64% from 104 matches.
Fortunately we do still have some outstanding players and I'd like to identify these players as they stack up our strengths.
Shane Watson has hit form at the Indian Premier League (IPL) with 513 runs at 42.75, showing an improvement in his focus since dropping the vice-captaincy after the dreadful Border-Gavaskar series.
Watto was instrumental in our 2009 Champions Trophy victory as he scored centuries in both the semi-final and final, with a total of 266 runs from 5 matches at 88.33. A great turn around after a golden duck in the opening match against the West Indies.With his bowling duties slowly but surely returning he will take to the field as an all-rounder with runs behind him in a format of the limited overs nature. Confidence is key for him.
Adam Voges is set to play for Middlesex when Chris Rogers puts his Baggy Green cap back on for the Ashes. With experience in English conditions and a bizarre turn of fortune with his international opportunities after an excellent peak in form for the Western Warriors, Adam may end up being the glue in the squad, a role in void after Michael Hussey retired.
Huss has scored 732 runs at 56.30, clocking in 6 half-centuries from 16 innings in the IPL with a game to go. If you still miss seeing his name in our side, this may just add to it.
Alongside Adam, George Bailey will need to assist him in the middle order department, in order to ensure the strike is rotated and aggression can be brought to the front lines if needs be. It's something Huss could do on his lonesome, but together Bailey and Voges have the hitting power and experience to keep the core in tact whilst adapting to the game situation.
Phillip Hughes has made a reasonably steady start to his ODI career with 416 runs at 52.00 and two centuries to his name. Like a few of our other players, he has played limited overs cricket in England. A good start here will line up his self-belief for the Ashes.
Outside of this category is Michael Clarke. Although Clarkey's sublime form has been best kept for Test cricket in recent times, he never been a pushover in ODI cricket. He missed out on the last Champions Trophy as a result of injury, something he is trying to keep at bay. He's our best batsman and is likely to continue his job in the number four role. Given his experience, abilities and ambition taken from leadership responsibilities, you can't rule him out as the key player.
Bowling wise James Faulkner is close to being the leading wicket-taker for IPL 6 and is quickly building a case for himself. The English conditions will work in his favour with the white ball and the man can also bat a bit. He's our best grounded emerging all-rounder and if his recent performances are anything to go by, watch out for him in England!
Clint McKay won the ODI Player of the Year award at the Allan Border Medal Awards. He's got a silent-assassin nature about him. He takes the wickets and gets on with the job drawing little attention. Although he may need to find a few tricks beyond the slower ball for this tournament, overcast conditions in England ensure anything is possible and I reckon seeing him bowl in tandem with Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Faulkner, even Watson, could be a real test for the opposition batsmen.
Although I perceive it as a threat given two of our opponents in the opening matches of our tournament, our batting against quality swing bowling hasn't been a battle to watch without biting your nails and clenching your fists in nervous anticipation.
Our bowling line-up doesn't boast much experience in the ranks though to serve as armour for our batsmen. In any major event, inexperience will be dubbed as a weakness, although I see this summer as the greatest opportunity in recent times for our bowling troops.
Given the lack of time this side has played cricket together as a distinct unit, it hardly boosts the concept of team unity which has been an issue for us for some time. The media took this to a new level after the homework ordeal in India. Sure, supporters from the other camp will understandably identify this as a weakness through a lack of unity heading into a major event, but once again it is an opportunity for us.
As a team we need to climb up the ranks from our current seat in the ICC house at four, with a rating of 110, two behind India (112) in third place. We also have a title to defend, which will be a tough task with the competitive fact that whoever wins this title will forever have the trophy and title as this is the final ICC Champions Trophy winners.
No need to indicate how huge these opportunities are in order to stamp some authority going forward.
A good performance in the Champions Trophy will also uplift all in the Australian cricket camp, an opportunity not to be underestimated going forward. In 2009 we got knocked out in the opening rounds of the second ICC World Twenty20. I remember how numbing that was. Even though our players had extra time to prepare for the Ashes with the World T20 seen as an unrelated event, we all remember the result of the Ashes that followed. Momentum, momentum, momentum!
However, there's opportunities for individuals in our side too.
Mitchell Marsh is making his return to international cricket. Mitch is undoubtedly a young cricketer who needs further opportunity for Australia, but he's not a guaranteed addition of strength to our side.
His performances for us in T20 cricket in South Africa a while ago still remain strong in my mind and if he is given a fair go to find himself at the elite level, another member of the Marsh family has the opportunity to become a household name. In this event he has the opportunity to also rise above Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, the other young all-rounders.
Mitchell Starc is on the comeback from injury. Therefore this tournament marks an opportunity for him to hit back onto the scene and showcase his excellent attributes as the top gun in Australia's bowling line-up. There is a serious risk of injury recurring post his surgery, so I think he may find himself on the sidelines. Should he be deemed fit to play, the opportunities ahead for this young man are there for the taking.
Mitchell Johnson has been the forgotten man of Australian cricket. He's put in some top class performances for Mumbai in IPL 6. While Mitchell's days of Test cricket are done for, I have always felt limited overs cricket accommodates his "inconsistent nature" and makes him a deadly addition to the side as when he's in the groove he's bloody spectacular! The opportunity is obvious for Mitch. Make a statement in England with brutal pace and put aside those nightmares of 2009.
Matthew Wade has been retained the ODI keeper of choice. With Brad Haddin returning as our number one gloves-man, Matt has an opportunity to clear his mind, focus on his own game without the distraction of Hads and just get on with the job to remind himself he got into the side based on top quality performances for Victoria, especially the season leading up to his Test debut. It's an opportunity for us as a team if he finds his feet to stack up our keeper pen again.
David Warner was in a Twitter ordeal where he hit out at some local journalists. His hearing is taking place today but after a difficult campaign for his IPL side, the Delhi Daredevils, David will be eager to hit back at the critics wearing the Green & Gold gear. The opportunity is a personal one on his part but of course we know how destructive a batsman he is. Perhaps we need to see the Pitbull become the Raging Bull!
Injury tops the list of threats before the opposition squads.
Mitchell Starc is going to be fresh to the fold after surgery and my gut instinct is he may be unlikely to play with the Ashes being a big arena for his skills. Clint McKay has also had his fair share of injury niggles.
Michael Clarke has had to make plenty reassurances in the media that his back issues seem unlikely to flare up, while Shane Watson's medical record needs no overview.
The risk of our opponents this time around is a real threat and this list is an indicator that it won't be a walk in the park.
In our Pool we start off by taking on England, the host country and our ultimate rivals for the English summer. The crowds will be vocal and the focus will be massive on this game given it is definitely a curtain raiser. Ultimate pressure, something this side is learning to combat and handle.
Following England we have New Zealand, the dark horses of every ICC event. They have the uncanny ability to make semi-finals and finals with little attention drawn to their performances. They never grab the silverware but have no shame in producing the "upsets" and making life hell for the punters. We will face the Black Caps with plenty to be cautious about.
Lastly but not least, Sri Lanka. Like New Zealand, they rarely don't bow out of a tournament without having one hand on the silverware. Having said this, they put up an almighty fight against us during the summer in the ODIs, after we rolled them in the Warne-Muralitharan Test series. The series ended with some tension as Glenn Maxwell and George Bailey had an altercation with Sri Lanka's troops. Sri Lanka will always be a threat in an ICC event.
England and New Zealand boast really good swing bowling units and the conclusion of the 1st Test between them at Lord's gave a good indication where they're at. James Anderson and Stuart Broad dominated!
Sure, it's Test cricket and the red ball is a greater challenge to face than the white ball, but with our batting line-up having shown a lack of patience and application when taking on swing bowling in recent times - a very, very difficult challenge to face though in their defence - they face a major threat to try get runs on the board. This format still demands caution, patience and the ability to read the game with expertise to ensure the runs keep ticking over. It will be a long summer against a swinging ball so this gears it up.
This was one of the best sides we could put together and it's not an average side by any means.
The Ashes squad was one that called upon experience to balance out the issue between emerging players with talent and players with experience in Ashes clashes, or county experience.
With the risk of injury this side had to call upon players in the bracket of early development at international level but there's still the experience and talent of Clarke, Watson, Voges, Bailey, Warner, McKay and Johnson; with young players who have what it takes to grab wickets or smash runs.
There is no definite favourite to clinch the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and with this open field I am always going to back our boys to win. If they click as a unit from the start, the finals will be reached, no doubt.
However, with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka as our Pool A rivals, disharmony and a lack of unity will be easily exposed by these sides. Momentum is everything in these small events and a bad start is very daunting to comeback from.
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