For more than one-and-a-half decades, cricket fans recognised Australia as world champions. This was apart from the four years India claimed the crown in 2011.
Four years later, in their backyard, Australia reclaimed the title by beating New Zealand in the final. During their unbeaten run in the tournament, they ended India’s campaign by handing them a drubbing in the semi-final.
But since that semi-final in March 2015, much of the Australian line-up has changed. Their World Cup captain Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson have retired, so has Brad Haddin. Their most successful bowler in the past one year, Mitchell Starc, is out injured. Adding to the list of missing players is Shane Watson who has been dropped.
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Led by Steve Smith, when the team enters the WACA on Tuesday, two new players will make their debuts. While Scott Boland is a right-arm pacer, Joel Paris will try and exploit the conditions in Perth, especially the swing that will be on offer because of the breeze (as captain Smith explained), with his left-arm seamers.
While the home conditions will suit Australia, it will difficult for them as they would be facing an Indian side which has a fine blend of experience and youth. The India-Australia series does have some familiar names to maintain the rivalry but India seem to have the upper hand, at least on paper.
The hosts will have to overcome the shortcomings in their bowling department, especially the spinners. All the five bowlers that Australia have included for Tuesday are pacers with Mitchell Marsh and James Faulkner being all-rounders. The spin options being Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, both of whom are part-timers.
The world champions are under a phase of transition just like they were in the longer format of the game two years back. Clarke lifted the team in the best way possible at that time. Smith, in the ODIs, has had a difficult time since the World Cup but this series can be path-breaking for his captaincy.
The series will give an idea of how the new Australian side is coming up. The batting line-up looks stable and a formidable one as David Warner and Aaron Finch have the experience of playing together. The former has been in incredible form with centuries in the Test series against West Indies.
This middle order compromises of Smith, George Bailey, Maxwell and Marsh, a combination of both aggression and experience. Faulkner can always be used as the perfect finisher.
The team surely offers a great deal of excitement but it will have to give its cent percent to overcome the opponent.
A spot in the World Cup final may not be up for the grabs but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the winner as the hosts would like to overcome a team that is trying to forget an unsatisfying 2015.
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