Why Smith and Warner won’t save our World Cup campaign
FORMER Test opener Ed Cowan has analysed Australia's World Cup prospects - and it's fair to say he's somewhat underwhelmed despite the imminent return of Steve Smith and David Warner.
The two Australian batsmen will be eligible to return to the national set-up at the end of the month and, should they both recover well from elbow surgery, are set to slot straight back in.
But while he accepts their return is worth up to 50 runs to Australia, Cowan says the pessimist in him can't see the team making it through to the World Cup semi-finals.
The 18-Test opening batsman was speaking in the wake of Australia's eight-run loss to India in game two of their ODI series. The loss dropped Australia to 2-0 in the five-match series.
"They should have won last night," he said. "I think at one stage, when Alex Carey was in, they needed 34 (runs) off 32 (balls), five wickets in hand. A team playing with confidence walks that in 99 games out of 100.
"A team that has lost 12 of its last 15 games, struggling to find the winning mojo, struggling to find a style of play that suits the personnel falls over in a heap, loses five for nothing and loses the game.
"So it's not a good sign. You can look at the glass and say it's half full and say they played well, they're playing India in India and almost won. The pessimist is saying they've won three games in 15, there's a World Cup starting in May, these guys aren't making the semi-finals."
Smith and Warner are widely accepted to be Australia's only two world-class batsmen and their absence, due to Sandpaper Gate, has badly exposed the dearth of talent in the top order.
But Cowan doesn't believe they will waltz back into the team and be able to significantly alter Australia's ODI performance trajectory after not having played much cricket recently.
"These guys (Smith and Warner) are worth 40 to 50 runs to a team," Cowan said.
"The two things to note are: one, these guys haven't played (much) cricket, they've both come off elbow surgeries (and are coming) into a World Cup cold. And as you know, the biggest commodity in sport is confidence, and playing with freedom and confidence comes from playing well.
"And secondly, one thing most people have forgotten is the Australian one-day team has been poor for two years. And even when Smith and Warner were playing, the style of play they were playing was not suited to winning a World Cup.
"They were trying to develop a style for probably two or three years, of playing really highly aggressive, ultra-attacking cricket - it wasn't working. Change of coach, (he) has tried to produce a more consistent style of play and less aggressive, particularly with the bat. The players, I think, are a little confused as to how best to sort of come out the other side of that.
"And then there is the overlay of the guys who have had to step up. One-day cricket in Australia has been devalued as a domestic competition. They haven't had the time or legs in one-day cricket, to learn the game. To learn what kind of player they want to be and then stepping up to the national team and then unfortunately not producing the goods."
Cowan says the best ODI teams are those who have adapted their Twenty20 style across to the ODI format, naming three teams who possess the ability to play ultra-attacking cricket.
"(T20 cricket) has certainly the way other teams are playing, Look at England, look at West Indies and India - they are playing ultra-aggressive cricket, but they've got the skill to pull it off," he said.
"We were still trying to find the people to do that for us. And don't forget we're a poor T20 team as well. This is not confined to one-day cricket. We're almost the worst T20 team in the world.
"It's a skill factor, we're under developed in white-ball cricket skills; and we're going to reap what we sow because at the World Cup, it would take a huge (turnaround). From the deepest part of my heart, I hope we win the thing. But my head says it's not going to happen."
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