One year out, here’s my 15-man squad for the World Cup

Date: January 31, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

It’s just over 12 months before Australia and New Zealand host the 11th edition of the 50-over World Cup with the final to be staged at the MCG.

Winning on home soil has not been easy with India the first to do so when it won the final at Mumbai in 2011 against Sri Lanka.

Australia has co-hosted the event once before, in 1992, where it embarrassingly failed to make the semi-finals.

This time around Cricket Australia and the fans will be expecting better with the side back on top of the world rankings with a slender one-point lead over India.

Australia won a hat-trick of titles with tournament victories at the 1999, 2003 and 2007 editions – it also won in 1987 and is the only nation to have won the Cup more than twice.

At the last event it was eliminated at the quarter-final stage by India at Ahmedabad.

A few months out from the one-day extravaganza the competing teams will be asked to submit a list of 30 names from which their final 15-man squads will be chosen.

Between now and the first match being played on Valentine’s Day next year Australia is slated to play a maximum 11 ODI matches – three in Zimbabwe in the middle of this year; five at home versus South Africa in November; and potentially three on home soil in a tri-series immediately before the World Cup against as yet unknown opponents.

It does not leave a lot of international competition for the selectors to make up their minds.

So, at this stage, who is likely to be in that select group of 15 for Australia – pending fitness?

Michael Clarke will definitely be the skipper. A veteran of 236 one-dayers, he boasts an imposing average of 44.7. He is also one of the most tactically astute leaders in international cricket.

After being exiled recently from the one-day team David Warner is very much back in favour. His one-day form of late has been stellar – he kicked off the Australian summer with three centuries for New South Wales in the Ryobi Cup (including a domestic competition record 197) before scoring 154 runs at 51.3 in the one-day series against England.

He is likely to open next year with Aaron Finch who had a breakout one-day series against England, winning the man-of-the-series award off the back of two centuries and an average of 51.6 with a strike rate of 93.

Finch once again displayed his clean ball striking yesterday with a 31-ball innings of 52 in the opening T20 match against England at Hobart.

A Warner-Finch opening partnership has the potential to set rapid platforms for the rest of the Australian order.

Shane Watson is a shoe-in. During his 11-year international career he has been at his best in the one-day arena – in 173 matches he has scored 5256 runs at 41.1 with nine centuries, the highest of which (185no) is the Australian record. His career strike rate is over 90 while he has claimed a valuable 163 scalps with the ball.

George Bailey may be on the outer after a brief foray at Test level but in the one-day arena he has been a revelation. In 39 matches he has scored 1647 runs at 53.1 with a strike rate of 91. He has the ability to be an innings closer in the mould of Michael Bevan and Mike Hussey. His tactical nous will also provide valuable support to Clarke.

While Shaun Marsh has had his struggles in the first-class arena he has proved a valuable contributor in one-dayers for his country with his 45 appearances netting him 1667 runs at 39.7. Despite a reputation as a dasher in coloured clothing his career strike rate is a modest 77, although he does have two run-a-ball tons against India and England.

There is room for one other batsman in the squad, and for mine, it will be out of Cameron White and Chris Lynn.

White has been in devastating form at domestic level this summer in all three forms of the game – 556 runs at 50.5 in the Sheffield Shield; 387 runs at 77.4 in the Ryobi Cup; and 201 BBL runs at 33.5 with a strike rate of 139.

He is one of the cleanest hitters of a cricket ball in the country as evidenced in the T20 at Bellerive Oval yesterday where he smacked a man-of-the-match winning 75 off just 43 balls.

I have him in front of Lynn for a spot in the final 15 at present although the Queenslander is not without a chance. He took to international ranks beautifully yesterday with an unbeaten 37 off 19 balls.

Aside from Watson I think there will be two other all-rounders in the squad – James Faulkner and Daniel Christian.

Faulkner has been a solid contributor for Australia through his 24 ODI appearances with 506 runs at 46.0 with a stellar strike rate of 117 and 36 wickets at 30.0. He has proved to be an effective bowler at the death with his variations of pace.

Christian has played 19 ODIs for his country for 273 runs at 21.0 and 20 wickets at 29.8. He boasts three first-class centuries although his best at ODI level from 18 innings is 39 but he has often had to attack from ball one coming in down the order. He bowls a ‘heavy ball’ and can be another whose clever change of pace can prove important in the power plays.

Some will say that Glenn Maxwell brings an X-factor to the side. He strikes at 124 with the bat and averages 34.5 in ODIs but his bowling has proven largely ineffective with just 11 wickets at 57.9 and a strike rate of 64. He would need to improve significantly in the next 12 months to truly warrant a spot.

He may turn 37 just before the World Cup but Brad Haddin has shown of late that age has not diminished his abilities. He is a clean hitter of the ball and has the technique to be able to produce the unpredictable.

Matthew Wade replaced Haddin when he was rested during the series against England and he would be an able replacement should Haddin fall short.

In the fast bowling ranks I think the spots will go to Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Clint McKay and Mitchell Starc.

Johnson returned to Test ranks as a result of his fine ODI form in 2013. His sheer pace can be a critical factor. He is currently Australia’s fourth most prolific wicket-taker at one-day level with 208 wickets at 25.9. His strike rate is just 31.9. His powerful hitting is also important late in the order.

McKay, in tenth place, is currently the highest ranked Australian ODI bowler. His record is first-class with 97 wickets at 24.4 from 59 matches. His strike rate of 30 underlines his potency.

It was not that long ago that Starc was a first-pick player in the ODI team but injuries have cruelled his efforts of late. When fully fit he has proven to be a handful with the white ball. In 19 matches he has taken 37 wickets at 19.9 with his strike rate a phenomenal 24. Three times he has claimed five wickets in an innings.

Pattinson is still a work in progress at ODI level having played just 13 matches for 16 wickets at 35.6. However it is hard to go past him when he is fully fit and I think he will be there come next year if he can continue to stay fit and play the bulk of the ODIs leading into the World Cup.

That leaves the spinner and I think there will be just the one – Xavier Doherty. Whilst he has not set the world on fire he has been a solid contributor. In 54 ODIs he has captured 51 wickets at 39.0 but his economy rate of 4.7 stacks up very well against his fast-bowling teammates.

So that is my 15-man squad: Michael Clarke (c), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Shaun Marsh, Cameron White, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Dan Christian, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 30 January 2014