2018: Australia’s Year of Gloom, and ODI Doom
2018 hasn’t been a great time to be involved in Australian cricket, in any capacity. Until so recently all-conquering – and still ODI world champions – the men from Down Under have endured their year of Murphy: everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.
It’s not over, of course. There’s the small matter of India’s arrival on Australian shores come the end of November, and a three-match T20I series, as well as the first three bouts of a four-Test contest, will be played out before the turn of the calendar.
But as far as the 50-over game is concerned – that which they’ve so dominated in the 21st century – Australia are done for the year. And they will be glad they are.
The Lowest Ebb
2 wins in 13. A run of seven straight defeats from January to November. Series defeats at home to England to start the year and South Africa to finish it, with a 5-0 whitewash in England sandwiched in the middle.
Want to know how bad, comparatively speaking, Australia have been this year? Well, considering all 10 teams that will compete at the 2019 World Cup in England, and accounting for years where they played a minimum of 10 ODIs, only five times has a nation fared worse than the Aussies have in 2018. Of those five, two instances were Bangladesh in 2002 and 2003 (well before they could be considered any sort of force in the 50-over game), and two were Sri Lanka in 1985 and 1987 (repeat same consideration as Bangladesh above).
A team which won over two-thirds of all its ODIs between 2000 and 2016, has now suffered two of its three worst years in history over the last two calendars.
Poor, Across Parameters
It’s not as if one particular aspect of their game has dwindled. The batting may have been expected to plummet in the absence of Messrs Smith and Warner, but the bowlers haven’t been any better.
Australia’s attack – boasting Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and co. – has conceded a shade under six runs an over in a year where the average economy rate across the world has been 5.20 (as of 13 Nov).
For wider perspective, sample this: Australia’s average differential (difference between batting and bowling averages) is nearly two-and-a-half times worse than that of Afghanistan’s. (To be fair to the Afghans, though, they are second only to India on that count in ODI cricket this year).
WC Title Defense: Already a Lost Cause?
Yes, sweeping predictions about an event should not be made with six months still left to go for it. Yes, the lowest-ranked team emerged as the winners at the Champions Trophy just last year. But Australia’s 50-over rut extends to more than just the year gone by, or even two.
In 43 years since the inception of the Cricket World Cup, and 11 editions of the competition, only once has a country holding the mantle of world champion been worse in ODIs – we’re talking four-year stretches here. That, too, was an Indian team which won the 1983 WC after having begun with odds of 66/1 to go the distance.
By their own standards, the story becomes even more poles apart: each of Australia’s four previous reigns as kings of the ODI game had seen them record a success rate of at least 65%.
So Where To, Now?
At times, when the chips are down, there can be no better remedy than time off. And while there’s no real break, with India’s tour underway with the T20Is starting from 21 November, Australia can breathe easy as far as their format of dread from the last 24 months is concerned.
The five-time world champions don’t play an ODI until 12 January next year, and current 50-overs captain Aaron Finch put up a hopeful front after the series loss to South Africa.
We have to either adapt our game plan a little bit around the way the side is structured best, or we slightly change our personnel to fit a style we think can win. That’s something that will come out over the next couple of months when we sit down and dig into it and find a way to get back on top of the world.Aaron Finch
It’s a LONG road to get back on top of the world for Australian cricket. Their world has been shaken in the previous six months. They will require a reverse shake-up of similar magnitude over the coming six, if they are to ensure Australia 2019 doesn’t replicate Germany 2018.
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