Australia have hit unprecedented lows in the 50-over format
As England blew away Australia by six wickets in the fourth ODI between the two sides at Chester-le-Street despite the visitors notching up the highest total ever at the ground, the emotions on Justin Langer’s usually stoic face were clear to see.
Tim Paine’s men had slumped to their 14th defeat in 16 ODI matches as the hosts took a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.
Just days before, the Aussies had been put to the grind at Trent Bridge where they suffered their worst defeat ever in 50-over cricket history as England scored a world-record 481-6. To make matters worse, the visitors sank to their lowest-ever ODI ranking (sixth) since 1984.
Such has been Australia’s woes with white-ball cricket that is easy to forget that they lifted their fifth ICC World Cup trophy three years ago.
Things seemed to be rolling smoothly for some time after their World Cup win as series victories against India and England followed. It is only at the start of last year that the wheels began to fall off Australia’s ODI unit.
The 5-0 thrashing they received at the hands of the South Africans was a precursor of things to come despite subsequent series wins over New Zealand and Pakistan. Now, after their latest defeat at the hands of England at Chester-le-Street, Australia’s win-rate in the format post their World Cup win is a lowly 47 per cent.
For the record, only two teams among the full members have a worse record than them during this period. That only Sri Lanka (31 per cent) and the West Indies (26 per cent) have a worse win-rate than the Aussies tells you all you need to know.
Afghanistan and Bangladesh have performed better than the five-time world champions, which raises questions about Australia’s limited-overs setup.
The alarming decline in Australia’s game is further highlighted by shift in the balance of power with arch-rivals England. In the last 13 ODIs against their Ashes rivals, the Australians have managed to win just two matches. In the preceding 12 ODIs before those set of fixtures, Australia had won 11 times.
This role reversal shows the direction the two teams have taken ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup. While Eoin Morgan’s England are on their way up and early contenders to capture their maiden world title in front of home fans, Australia are spiraling out of control.
While it is true that Australia turned up in England without their main pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, they weren’t pulling up any trees in the preceding ODI series at their own backyard following their Ashes win. That 4-1 defeat at home came at a time when Steve Smith and David Warner were still the poster boys of Australian cricket.
With less than a year to go for the 2019 World Cup, it is safe to say than new coach Justin Langer has quite a task at hand in trying to reinvigorate the ODI setup. That Smith and Warner will walk straight into the side post the completion of their bans is now a given.
What Langer needs to do now is build a team for the global showpiece where every player is aware of his role in the squad. In all, 42 different players have been selected by Australia in ODIs since the last World Cup. Only Sri Lanka have chopped and changed more often than that and they have been equally abysmal, if not more.
Appointing a permanent captain for the ODI team is the first task for Langer and the Australian selectors. With his current batting woes, Tim Paine does not inspire too much confidence as skipper and unless the Australia think tank are completely assured of Paine growing into his role, they would be better served to look elsewhere.
When Langer took over the coaching role post the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, he spoke about wanting to change Australia’s dressing room culture as he sought to write a new chapter for the world champions. What he needs to do more urgently is repair Australia’s ODI unit, for the World Cup clock is ticking fast.