Men's ODI World Cup 2019

Cup 'headache' looms for building Aussies

Coach Justin Langer says changing a winning squad will be hard if Australia's ODI side continues to improve in Pakistan series

Andrew Ramsey

14 March 2019, 03:04 PM AEST

Aussies seal historic ODI series triumph

Justin Langer has indicated that if his current ODI squad maintains the results they achieved in their history making India campaign, it will be difficult for selectors to justify making significant changes for the upcoming ICC World Cup.

The national men's team coach lauded his group for securing a 3-2 series win against the world's second-ranked ODI outfit on their home turf and is now eyeing a similarly strong performance in the five-match series against Pakistan in the UAE beginning next week.

That will be the final competitive hit-out before the 10 competing teams must submit their 15-man World Cup squads to the ICC by April 23.

And Langer claims that if Australia continue their winning ways, that group is likely to differ little to the squad he will lead to the Emirates where the first match against Pakistan is scheduled for Sharjah on March 22.

"It's really hard to change winning combinations," Langer said in the wake of Australia's 35-run win in Delhi, to claim the trophy after losing the first two matches of the series.

"We've got a few selection headaches coming up obviously, but if we keep winning, the guys will be putting their best foot forward.

"I've said throughout, if we keep winning, selection usually looks after itself.

"It's been one of our philosophies."

The largest "headaches" that the selection panel – Langer, in conjunction with chair Trevor Hohns and Greg Chappell – will be the imminent availability of established internationals Steve Smith and David Warner (from suspension) and the expected return of injured fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Of that quartet, Hazlewood would appear the least likely to figure in upcoming discussions about the squad that Australia takes into its World Cup defence in the UK, which begins in late May.

Hazlewood has yet to resume bowling after being diagnosed with a back stress fracture earlier this year.

Langer attributes a significant portion of his current team's success in India to players' preparedness to shut out the impacts that individual efforts might have on their World Cup ambitions, and focus instead on the team's collective aspirations.

"It's a real danger time in Australian cricket for a lot of individuals because of World Cup selection," Langer said.

"The trap is – and it's really normal for humans to be thinking about getting picked – if you put the emphasis on yourself, you tend to put too much pressure on, and you don't go well and we (the team) don't go well.

Finch and Langer celebrate the win // Getty
Finch and Langer celebrate the win // Getty

"That's why I've been so pleased with this group of players, it's been about 'we' – we've talked about 'we'.

"We talk about what 'we're doing', not just what 'I'm doing', and that's really important."

However, there was a couple of stand-out individual efforts throughout the India tour that Langer acknowledged and indicated would hold Australia in good stead for the Pakistan series and into the World Cup.

He pointed to the batting returns of the ODI series' leading runs scorer Usman Khawaja, whose exhaustive fitness campaign before and after injuring his knee during last year's Test series against Pakistan in the UAE has transformed his game.

In-form Khawaja hammers another ton

Langer noted that not only had the ODI opener been able to post two centuries plus another score in the 90s through his improved speed and stamina, he was able to back-up from those gruelling innings with impressive fielding efforts.

"What a credit it is to him, where he's come from to where he is now with the way he's transformed his body, and his running between wickets," Langer said.

"I daresay there's no way that 10-12 months ago, Usman Khawaja would have two hundreds and a 90 and still be fresh as a daisy in the field.

"I remember I was sitting in my driveway at home, probably a few days after I got appointed coach (last May) and he was one of the first people I spoke to. He wanted to know where he was at with white-ball cricket.

Khawaja scores first ODI ton, Finch finds form

"I just said, 'The reality is I don't want you to get fit to tick a box or to please me, or (then Team Performance boss) Pat Howard, or Queensland Cricket or Cricket Australia. Do it so you can run harder between the wickets and field better, because we know you're talented.'

"He scores hundreds, and we've talked about having batsmen who can score hundreds in our top four.

"So he was rewarded for it, and he's paying us back in spades at the moment."

Langer also voiced praise for leg spinner Adam Zampa, who ended the five-match series as Australia's second-highest wicket-taker behind fast bowler Pat Cummins, who claimed 14 wickets from 15.71.

Zampa's 11 wickets (at 25.81) not only came with an economy rate of less than a run per ball, but also included the prized scalps of India skipper Virat Kohli (twice in five matches) and his captaincy predecessor MS Dhoni (twice in three).

Zampa had revealed prior to the current Australia season beginning that he had worked diligently on improving his wrong-un, to make it a more attacking option rather than simply a variation in the white-ball format.

But Langer said the 26-year-old has also improved his stock-ball leg break, which has further increased his potency as well as self-belief.

As a result, Zampa looms as potentially a similar World Cup threat to leading rival ODI wrist spinners such as Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Kuldeep Yadav (India) Adil Rashid (England) and Imran Tahir (South Africa).

"Confidence is an amazing thing," Langer said of Zampa's continued development since being omitted from Australia's white-ball squads last year.

"He's worked very hard with Sri (men's team consultant spin bowling coach Sridharan Sriram) and we talked about him developing a turning leg spinner as well because in T20 cricket, he tends to bowl top spinners or wrong-uns and attacks the stumps.

"We saw in probably his third or fourth-last ball (in last night's final match at Delhi), he bowled a ripping leg spinner and that's huge for him.

"Like all our players he's showing development and that's all we can ask for.

"We asked for improvement and we're seeing that. He's been rewarded, and we've been rewarded because of it."

Qantas Tour of India

First T20: Australia won by three wickets

Second T20: Australia won by seven wickets

First ODI: India won by six wickets

Second ODI: India won by eight runs

Third ODI: Australia won by 32 runs

Fourth ODI: Australia win by four wickets

Fifth ODI: Australia win by 35 runs

Qantas Tour of the UAE

First ODI: v Pakistan, March 22 in Sharjah

Second ODI: v Pakistan, March 24 in Sharjah

Third ODI: v Pakistan, March 27 in Abu Dhabi

Fourth ODI: v Pakistan, March 29 in Dubai

Fifth ODI: v Pakistan, March 31 in Dubai