After facing its heaviest World Cup defeat on Thursday against South Africa, Australia captain Pat Cummins admitted the mood in the camp was ‘flat’ but that his team is ready to turn it around when it takes on Sri Lanka at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium here on Monday.
“Everyone is after the last game was a little bit flat, but the last couple of days have been really good. Everyone has rolled up their sleeves and want to try and get to work and make amends. So, the mood in the camp has been fantastic. Everyone’s great. Everyone’s desperate to turn it around,” he said on match eve.
Interestingly, the only two games the Aussies lost during their march to the semifinals at the World Cup in 2019 were against India and South Africa, the same two sides they have tasted defeat against in their first two games this time around.
Monkey off the back
Since the last World Cup, Australia has faced India and South Africa in 13 and nine ODIs, respectively, and has won just seven against each. With two of its toughest opponents behind them, the skipper feels the Australians will be confident of taking on teams they have been relatively more successful against.
“Looking back at 2019, India and South Africa were the two teams that we lost to in the round games there. I think in the last year, they’re kind of the two teams that we’ve had the most trouble against. So, the opportunity now is we’ve got some teams we haven’t played for a while that we’ve had a lot of success against,” Cummins said.
But conditions are something the five-time champion will have to contend with if it hopes to progress in the tournament. The middle-order collapsed against both India and South Africa on contrasting pitches while the spinners lacked penetration in the middle-overs on both occasions.
Cummins admits that given the vastness of the country, adapting to the conditions is something that the team is still learning and that ODI cricket, since it is played over day and night, is an entirely different ball game compared to T20s, a format the Australians are well acquainted with in Indian conditions.
“ODI cricket, compared to T20 cricket, is played half in daylight and half at night. It is a bit different than T20 cricket. I find these wickets sometimes hard to read as well. Sometimes they look terrible and play beautifully and sometimes they look flat and end up spinning. It is tough and you got to adapt on the fly sometimes.,” he said.
Moreover, Australia has won two tosses out of two so far in the tournament, with Cummins’ decision to bat against India and bowl against South Africa backfiring.
However, a positive the captain takes from the defeat against the Proteas is the way the bowlers adapted to the conditions and bowled to the dimensions of the ground at the death to concede only 48 runs and pick four wickets in the last seven overs.
This was a significant achievement for a side that boasts of the worst economy rate in the death overs in ODIs this year, conceding a whopping 8.74 runs an over in the last 10.
“I thought we bowled really well at the end of the innings... The cutters seemed to work quite well last game even just being a slightly bigger field here, that normally helps the cutters into the wicket a little bit,” Cummins said while adding that the team was looking to follow that blueprint going ahead.
Luxury or lack of role clarity?
Australia’s abundance of all-rounders in its line-up held promise but hasn’t translated into success so far.
Glenn Maxwell has stood out as a spinner, overshadowing leggie Adam Zampa, but has been found wanting with the bat. Similarly, Cameron Green, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis have failed to live up to their billing as power-hitters and haven’t been trusted much with the ball.
While this may come across as a lack of role clarity in a team that has pivoted from its traditional reliance on specialists, Cummins terms it a ‘luxury’ to have them in his ranks.
“I think the good thing and the luxury we have with the all-rounders is they all make it into the team on the back of their primary skill, which for most of them is batting. And it’s fortunate we’ve got guys like Stoinis and Maxwell and Marsh that can provide overs and do it really well,” he said.
After Australia lost its first two World Cup matches for the first time since 1992, Cummins says he doesn’t know what is implied when his side is accused of not playing the ‘Australian’ way but is aware that a team which was No. 1 in the format just last month doesn’t need to look too far back to come up with its best performance.
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