“One of the reasons for their failure might be the constant chopping and changing”
Most of the ODI and limited-overs sides around the world are built on the might of their batting. 300 has become the new par in the 50-over game and teams have chased down big scores a lot more consistently than ever before. Shorter boundaries, flatter pitches and big scores have become the new norm in limited-overs cricket. This is not very new, but it is a trend that has gradually developed over the last few years.
The World Cup is just about 80-odd days away and the defending champions are in all sorts of strife with the bat. They seem to be in an absolute mess as far as batting is concerned in ODI cricket. We are talking of 300 being the new par but Australia have touched the 300-run mark just three times (in 23 innings) since the end of the Champions Trophy in 2017. In fact, they’ve crossed the total of 250 all of 10 times in this period.
One might argue the absence of the two stalwarts at the top of the order has affected the batting big time. Yes, it has but that’s only since March 2018. Even before that the Aussie batsmen struggled in the 10 ODIs Steve Smith and David Warner played before they were suspended. In fact, in those 10 games with their two big players, Australia tasted victory in just two games and another two in the subsequent 13 without them.
Australia may not have played a lot of ODI cricket over the last couple of years but they have the worst win/loss ratio (0.21) by any team who has played ODI cricket since the Champions Trophy 2017. They have never won more than one ODI in a series and their struggles have just gone on and on.
Most of the struggles have largely been due to their inability to put up big scores with the bat. Whether they bat first or second, they just seem pretty tentative and end up with middling scores more often than not. If you take a look at the stats since Champions Trophy 2017, Australian batsmen average 27.83 (collectively) which is the third worst among Test-playing nations.
Only nine centuries and 23 half-centuries have been scored by batsmen in this period. In fact, in the same period, only three players have an average of over 40 in 50-over cricket. David Warner (1), Shaun Marsh (4) and Aaron Finch (4) are the only players who have got to the three-figure mark while Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis lead the fifties charts with six and four respectively in the aforementioned period.
They have wasted a lot of starts, just like they did in the two ODIs against India in the ongoing series. Most of the top-order batsmen have got starts in every game, they’ve got their eye in but haven’t kicked on. If you take a look at the scorecard, the top seven have just two single-digit scores (both games combined) but yet there are only two half-centuries. Even those two 50+ scores didn’t last long after they reached the milestone.
One of the reasons for their failure might be the constant chopping and changing. There hasn’t been any sort of consistency, especially with the batting order. Marcus Stoinis bats at 3 one game and 6 in another. Usman Khawaja was batting at 3 in one series and is up to open the innings in another. Glenn Maxwell’s batting position has been toyed around with a lot. Alex Carey was opening the batting at the start of this year but now has been pushed down to No. 7. Only a couple of batsmen have remained still and that is Finch and Shaun Marsh.
Thus, Australia’s ODI batting has been in disarray over the last couple of years. Remember, England is going to throw up some really flat batting tracks in the upcoming World Cup. And the last time Australia went to England to play ODI cricket in June 2018, their average score with the bat in those five games was 254.
Yes, Smith and Warner will most likely be back and add some teeth to this batting line-up. However, others need to step up as well. If Australia are to come anywhere near defending that World Cup title, they have to sort their batting mess.