No country, not even England after their run of success at No.1, will have such a strong batting line-up as Australia after the return of Warner and Smith. Warner has looked fitter than at any time in his career in the IPL – fit enough to keep pace with his opening partner Jonny Bairstow between wickets – and motivated to make runs by the sackful in every format.
Smith, following an elbow operation, has eased back less spectacularly in the IPL – and his 50-over batting has never been quite the same forte as in Tests, where he averages 61 – but he still merits a return under the captaincy of Aaron Finch.
Warner, Finch, Usman Khawaja – who came good as an ODI opener during the winter – Smith, Shaun Marsh, and either Glenn Maxwell or Marcus Stoinis, or both: no, not even England can match that line-up for solidity – for pyrotechnics on a high-scoring pitch, yes, but not for solidity on every occasion, most importantly the knockout stages.
India do not have the same strength of batting either, not for English conditions when the ball is moving around – or the depth in pace bowling.
They have the spinners – two unorthodox and Ravi Jadeja – but the semi-finals and final will be on fresh pitches, unused in the World Cup to that point. Will you really want to play two specialist spinners in such conditions, especially if it is cloudy at Old Trafford, Edgbaston or Lord’s?
India have all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who is sharp, but otherwise only three pace bowlers in Bhuvi Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. In the event of injury a player can be replaced but he cannot return to the tournament once he has recovered.
England announce their World Cup squad of 15 this week at Lord’s.
The Telegraph, London