As with the World Cup, the Champions Trophy is another tournament that is accustomed to being festooned with green-and-gold ribbons. The domination of the World Cup lasted 12 years, till India ended it in a dramatic quarterfinal in 2011. The Champions Trophy success story dates back to 2006. But with Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey now having joined the bowling titans on Retirement Row and Michael Clarke under an injury cloud, you won’t get too many predicting a hat-trick of Australian wins. It’s never smart to discount them in the big games though.
Strengths: Australia seldom let themselves down at the big-ticket events. The global stage tends to bring out the best in them, and it will be interesting to see whether a varied and strong pace attack will thrive in what are likely to be bowler-friendly conditions. There will be genuine pace to hurry batsmen, but as James Faulkner showed during his Indian Premier League stint, they’ve also learned to mix it up well when pitches are not in their favour.
They no longer possess a marquee spinner, and much will depend on how well Shane Watson’s bowling arm holds up. In an inexperienced side, he is a trump card. As is likely to be the case in the near future though, hopes of success will rest primarily on Clarke’s batting and captaincy. Others like to wait and watch. Clarke makes things happen.
Weaknesses: Look no further than that batting order. Clarke, Watson and David Warner are match-winners, but there doesn’t seem to be too much in reserve. It’ll be especially interesting to see how some of the newer faces cope if there is extravagant swing or seam movement. On the slower pitches, the lack of a game-changing spinner could also be costly.
David Warner: Warner can be irresistible when the rhythm’s right. Teams will doubtless target him with spin, mystery and otherwise, but the new-ball bowlers will find few places to hide if he starts middling them. After his recent social-media fiasco, he may have a point or two to prove as well.
Mitchell Starc: There are few batsmen who like facing a tall left-handed bowler. When that bowler can swing the ball at high pace, he becomes an even less appealing prospect. There are still rough edges, but Starc has quickly established himself near the forefront of a very exciting group of young quicks. Controlling the new ball, which can swing a mile in English conditions, will be key to his success.
Shane Watson: Immense when Australia won the title four years ago, his muscular orthodox hitting remains a cornerstone of an attempt to win the trophy thrice. His combination with Warner will be crucial, as will the overs Clarke can eke out of him. On his good days, Watson can be deceptively quick, and he jars the bat handle. As much as the heavy ball though, what will really inconvenience batsmen is his ability to move the ball just enough off the seam to take an outside edge.
Last 10 ODIs (most recent first): WWWWWWN/RLLW
1998: Eliminated after first knockout match
2000: Eliminated after first knockout match
2006: CHAMPIONS, beat West Indies in final
2009: CHAMPIONS, beat New Zealand in final
Squad: Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Brad Haddin (wk), David Warner, Matthew Wade (wk), Shane Watson, Adam Voges, Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Phillip Hughes, James Faulkner, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile.