Injury clouds and a run of five straight losses have made for the exact sort of World Cup lead in Australia didn’t want but the impending return of Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell has given hope things could come together just in time.
Australia has to confirm it’s 15-man squad for the tournament by Thursday with the heaviest decision set to be whether they carry opener Travis Head, who has a broken hand and won’t be ready until the second-half of the event.
But with questions over Australia’s spin choices to, amid form concerns for Adam Zampa and nominal second pick Ashton Agar’s complete lack of cricket this year, the fitness of Maxwell becomes extra important.
Maxwell left the South African tour after suffering soreness in the left leg he fractured last year and Starc, who could return in Wednesday’s final ODI against India, said his teammate’s spin bowling could be crucial in the World Cup.
“Glenn‘s … certainly an X-factor for us; he’s someone who can really take the game on and his ability with the ball particularly in these conditions adds to the bowling department,” Starc said.
“I am not sure about his particular timeline but no doubt he will be looking to make an impact as soon as he gets his chance.
“He has got a wealth of experience over here through IPL, through multiple tours. This is his third one-day World Cup.
“His ability with the ball, particularly in these conditions, adds another option in the bowling department as well. He seems in good spirits and going really well, [but] his return I am not sure what that looks like for this week but certainly on track for the World Cup.”
Agar has played just four games since January and Zampa was smashed for 113 in the fourth game in South Africa and has taken just three wickets in two losses in India so far.
The Australians, who have won the World Cup five times, haven’t played the same team once in a five-match losing streak from South Africa to India as they juggle the return of captain Pat Cummins from a fractured wrist), Mitchell Starc (groin soreness), Glenn Maxwell (leg soreness) and Steve Smith (wrist).
Rookie fast bowler Spencer Johnson has also returned to Australia with a hamstring injury as well as Nathan Ellis (groin), limiting Australia‘s reserve bowling options for the 45-day tournament.
Starc, who said his own fitness was “coming along” and that he would be ready for two warm-up matches before the World Cup opener on October 8, was confident the Aussies would be tournament-ready despite the challenging lead-in.
“Leading into a World Cup it‘s not a position that we want to be in, ” Starc said.
“We’ve still got two opportunities after this game before game one of the World Cup so it’s another chance to become accustomed to conditions and to adapt to what’s been thrown at us against,
“We have got a lot of guys with IPL experience, we know that the wickets are going to be very different through the night and day, depending on which part of India we play as well. There are not too many grounds where we play back-to-back games so, conditions are going to play a part. We just need to adjust better.”