x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Last Champions Trophy is Australia's chance to regain posterity

A title in England could well be a paradigm shift for captain Clarke's scratch side, writes Paul Radley.

Michael Clarke, left, has an inexperienced team in Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc, right. Paul Kane / Getty Images
Michael Clarke, left, has an inexperienced team in Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc, right. Paul Kane / Getty Images

The most recent general election in the UK, the one that brought about some deal-brokering to usher in a coalition government, was said to be the one nobody wanted to win.

The reason being that the country was in such a mess and the economy reeling from the global recession that unpopular decisions would need to be made, the sort that would make reelection unlikely for years after.

Michael Clarke might be able to empathise a little with the leader of the host nation of the Champions Trophy.

Being handed the keys to the office of Australia cricket captain probably felt nice at first, but it would not have taken long to realise the job facing him was close to unwinnable.

Budget cuts predated his arrival. Given that greats such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and the rest had departed in quick succession, there was always going to be a crash in the market.

Austerity measures mean that where Gilchrist once stood, now there is Matthew Wade. For Warne read Xavier Doherty, and for McGrath read Clint McKay. Champagne and caviar has been replaced by orange squash and value baked beans.

With the days of plenty over, the infighting started in earnest. Clarke's coalition with his No 2 was apparently an awkward marriage of convenience which reached an ugly terminus in India earlier this year.

Shane Watson may be without official portfolio now, but he probably still harbours leadership ambitions of his own.

That could work out to be a good thing for the team in the long run as Watson will need to perform well to remind everyone he is not just bad news.

But the ill-starred Indian tour and "Homework-gate" could bear a smear for some time yet. Clarke, for his part, wants bygones to be just that.

"I certainly don't want to look back," Clarke was quoted as saying at his arrival press conference ahead of the competition. "I think I've had enough time over the past eight weeks to look back. It's about looking forward."

And for all of Australia's troubles, there is plenty to cheer.

Their rivals now may be all around them rather than trailing miles behind, as in their pomp, but Australia are still second in the ICC rankings.

Their personnel are more prosaic than it was in the recent past, but they still have potential match winners.

Mitchell Starc possesses devilish potential with the ball, as he showed on tour here to the UAE at the end of last year. Clarke himself is among the world's best with the bat, while Adam Voges is much underrated in the middle order.

"The goal is to be the No 1 one-day team in the world with the group I have here at the moment, and that's our focus right now," Clarke said.

"I think if we can win the Champions Trophy it will go a long way to getting back that mantle."


Key man – David Warner

It is fair to assume the opener has a point to prove when he returns to the wicket for the first time in serious international cricket since recent controversy. The combative left-hander was fined for a expletive-laden tirade at two Australian journalists on Twitter. While all was apparently resolved in the aftermath, Warner will be keen to show his combatants they were wrong on one of the failings they specified – by scoring some runs.

Why they will win it

The Australians never won this tournament during their glory years – yet have got the hang of it since they started to turn for the worse. In truth, the 2006 vintage, who breezed to victory over West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in India, did still have an aura to drawn on, even if the stars had started to depart. They won the next Trophy, too, by beating New Zealand in the final in South Africa.

Why they will not win it

After a miserable time in India, they are more concerned with finding some solutions before the Ashes at present. A general indifference to the Ashes hors d’oeuvre – the Champions Trophy – may work in their favour. With the pressure off, they could play with some freedom. However, if they do win it will be with the weakest Australian squad ever to play in a Champions Trophy. Unlikely.

Squad    (ODIs)

Michael Clarke (c)    227

George Bailey    21

Nathan Coulter-Nile    0

Xavier Doherty    43

James Faulkner    5

Phillip Hughes    10

Mitchell Johnson    121

Clint McKay    42

Mitchell Marsh    1

Glenn Maxwell    11

Mitchell Starc    18

Adam Voges    17

Matthew Wade    32

David Warner    38

Shane Watson    157


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