• Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

In the Home Stretch of Their World Cup Preparation Lap, Australia Eye Finishing Touches to Their Playing XI

Australia captain Pat Cummins eased in the press-conference chair in a very relaxed mood. A light yawn and the skipper turned his attention towards the trophy for the three-ODI series. “Looks nice,” he muttered, had a good look at the silverware before placing it back in its original position.

This is well and truly the home stretch of the preparation lap for all teams ahead of the 2023 World Cup. And Australia couldn’t have asked for a better opposition, in ideal conditions, to apply the finishing touches to their Playing XI.

With Travis Head set to miss at least first half of the multi-nation event due to a fractured left hand, there is a spot up for grabs and Marnus Labuschagne could well fancy his chances for a back-door entry. Not named in the original World Cup squad, the classy right-hander announced his case, and how, during the recent ODI series against South Africa.

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The “concussion specialist” notched up scores of 80* and 124 in the first two games, followed it up with 15, 20 and 44 in the next three encounters. For Cummins, Labuschagne was the best Aussies batter in the series and the right-hander’s “intent was excellent”.

“Marnus is always ringing in my head (laughs). He was fantastic. He was our best batter in South Africa. Not only batting-wise, his intent was excellent in South Africa. I am sure he will get his chance in the three games (vs India) and push for his spot,” says Cummins on the eve of the first ODI in Mohali.

‘My wrist is all healed’

Like most teams, Australia have had a fair share of injuries to deal with but the visitors are expected to field their full-strength squad at some point in the series. Cummins himself has been missing from action for close to two months now due to an injury in his non-bowling wrist but is “feeling pretty good” now.

“I am feeling pretty good. My wrist is all healed now. I am 100 percent (fit). I will run around tomorrow and hope to play all three games,” says Cummins.

As far as other key players, who are also part of the World Cup squad, are concerned, Cummins provided an update on the “long list”. The notable absentee from tomorrow’s fixture will be Mitchell Starc.

“In terms of long list, Starcy (Starc) isn’t available. We will plan keeping in mind giving plenty of game time to everyone but also keep an eye on WC,” informs Cummins.

Starc is recovering from a groin strain but did bowl in the nets on eve of the series opener. The seamer started cautiously with gently rolling his arm over from a couple of steps but picked up intensity as the session progressed. He was bowling at brisk pace but Australia are in no mood to rush their frontline seamer before the World Cup.

Also Read | IND vs AUS 1st ODI: Pat Cummins Set to Return After 10 Months, Mitchell Starc Misses Out

Just Smith things

In a big relief to the management, Steve Smith is ready after recovering from the wrist injury and “batted all day” on September 20, the day Australia arrived in Mohali.

“Pura din batting kar raha tha… (he was batting all day),” says a net bowler who bowled to the former Aussie captain for hours on an optional training day. Smith wasn’t spotted on eve of the match but Cummins assures he will play.

“He (Smith) is all good and he will play tomorrow. He has got a few good hits and he looks hundred percent,” says Cummins.

Plenty of runs in store

First look of the Mohali centre-wicket being prepared for the match and it screams runs. Typical sub-continent tinge and plenty of sun means the bowlers will be in for a hard time tomorrow. It was very hot in Mohali today and there was hardly any breeze. It wasn’t that humid but the heat will make it challenging for bowlers in first half of game. For Cummins too, the real challenge is the heat.

“I always find Indian pitches pretty similar whatever time of the year you play. Only difference is the heat. Quite hot this time of the year compared to March but we have played a lot over here so we have pretty good information about conditions,” says Cummins.

Australia would hope to find their ideal combination by the end of the ODI series vs India and for Cummins, getting hands on the “nice” piece of silverware will be an additional incentive.

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