By Greg Baum
Delhi: Australian coach Andrew McDonald says the moral of the World Cup to date is that no team can be taken lightly and Australia will field their best team against the Netherlands on Wednesday.
Travis Head will play if he proves himself ready in the nets, and no bowler will be rested unless forced out by a strain or injury.
A 10-team single league tournament with two fewer minnows – including the West Indies! – was contentious when introduced, but it has made for stronger competition. Afghanistan beat England before the Dutch shocked South Africa, who in matches either side of that fixture thrashed Australia and England.
“I think that the Netherlands have shown against South Africa what they’re capable of, and they’ve got some really good players in decent form as well,” McDonald said.
“Even coming into the tournament, you don’t take anyone lightly. There’s a lot to be gained out of impressive performances against teams that you’re saying that we should beat. They’re sitting in their camp saying we’ve got an opportunity to knock Australia over. We’ve got a few little moving parts [to address].”
McDonald acknowledged that the two-month tournament was taxing overall, but said it meant no one in the squad needed to be nursed. Australia play the Netherlands and New Zealand three days apart, but then have a six–day break before playing England in Ahmedabad.
“We won’t be resting anyone,” he said. “There won’t be any designed rests. If they are to miss the game, it would be through potential niggles. We have got a short turnaround to the New Zealand game [next Saturday] but our focus is firmly on that Dutch game.”
“We’ve got a big break on the back of New Zealand, not that the players will be thinking about that at this point in time. We feel there’s an ample gaps with the way the tournament is structured that you can get your best players through all the games.”
“They’re sitting in their camp saying we’ve got an opportunity to knock Australia over.”Andrew McDonald on the Dutch national side ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Australia
McDonald said Australia had played only as well as they were allowed when they began the tournament with losses to form teams India and South Africa, but had played near their capabilities in beating Pakistan in Bengaluru.
“I thought we got back to playing the way we know that we can,” he said. “Have we got room for improvement? There’s no doubt about that. We’ve got room for improvement.”
One area is power play wickets. Australia’s past three opponents have had century-plus opening partnerships.
“We haven’t got the wickets that we’d like in the power play, and we’ve found ways to get wickets through the middle, but I don’t think that’s necessarily through the way that they’ve bowled,” McDonald said.
“I think it’s been that the wickets have been pretty good at the start and the opposition have probably outplayed us a little bit there. But I think those wickets will come.”
McDonald acknowledged that Australia had dropped more catches than usual. Fielding has been problematic for all teams. Even home team India missed chances while beating New Zealand in Dharamsala.
“We’ve been a little bit the same,” he said. “We haven’t been up to our usual standard, dropping a couple of catches last game as well. I think that will correct itself. The boys are working hard on their skill preparation, so it’s probably been a little bit uncharacteristic of us to drop as many catches as we have.”
On the credit side of the ledger, Josh Hazlewood was bowling with his trademark frugality, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell were giving lie to the idea that Australia had only one frontline spinner, and now Head was back in the frame.
McDonald said Head would have to prove that he was not only physically fit again, but in good enough form to slot in immediately. “We’re really optimistic that he will be available,” he said.
Though both from Melbourne, McDonald has not previously come across Dutch captain Scott Edwards. But he and Dutch all-rounder Roelof Van Der Merwe were squadmates in the Delhi Daredevils IPL team in 2011. McDonald retired seven years ago, Van Der Merwe is still going.
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