“Non-favourites” Australia set for different experience at World Cup: Michael Kasprowicz
Aaron Finch looks at the World Cup trophy. (AFP Image)

Former fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz believes Australia will be in for a new and different experience when they defend their World Cup crown in England later this year. Australia, five-time World Cup winners, have mostly entered the tournament as favourites to win the title. But this time around, battling poor ODI form, they will be in for a stiff competition with the likes of India and England, the top two-ranked teams in the world, breathing down their neck.

“It is a different path for Australian cricket. They have always gone into the contest as a favourite. But this is going to be different. They have a new coach and a few new players as well. It is up to them to create their own environment and path,” Kasprowicz told Times of India in an interview.

Over the last 12 months, Australia have slipped to their lowest over ICC ODI ranking – sixth spot and have endured series defeats at the hands of South Africa, India and England (twice). And Kasprowicz, 46, a non-executive board director of Cricket Australia, agreed with the fact that the last 10-12 months have indeed been quite tumultuous for their cricket.

“Absolutely. Tough, because of the changes. We had to look internally on what was happening. We had a look at the situation and worked on improving it. We are rebuilding components of the sport from the culture and performance side,” he said.

One of the major reasons behind their slump in form has been the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner from the side following their 12-month-long ban after they were guilty in the sandpaper incident that rocked the world last March. With the duo not available, Australia have tried out numerous combinations, but none seems to have materialised as a permanent solution. With Smith and Warner’s bans set to be lifted on March 29, Australia can hope for a better show.

“It has been an ongoing process. I think it is just not a matter of coming back, it is about a process and acceptance. Both the players are world class. If they are available, we would like to see them comeback and prove to (themselves) everyone on and off the field,” said Kasprowicz, who played 38 Tests and 43 one-dayers for Australia.

He also weighed in on Australia’s fast bowling stock, claiming that besides Mitchell Starc, the likes of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are quality bowlers whereas the emergence of young pacers like Jhye Richardson and Billy Stanlake makes for a balanced fast bowling unit.

“I think it is a great pace attack,” Kasprowicz said. “Pat Cummins has showed that he is world class. He is a high-impact player who can build pressure in both Test and limited overs cricket. Josh Hazlewood is super consistent. We also have a lot of young bowlers coming into the Test team and still playing one-day cricket.”

Admitting that the sandpaper incident left behind a plethora of doubters, Kasprowicz mentioned that the following few months were tough not just for the players and team, but for the board as well with people questioning their functioning.

“The vision of Australian cricket is to be the country’s favourite sport and spread it wide,” said Kasprowicz. “So, when you are Australia’s most popular sport, you’re exposed to opinions because people are investing emotions into the sport. They do that through various channels like participation, buying tickets, sponsorship. Through the period, everyone questioned what we are doing and how we were doing it (the change). The realisation led to rebuilding and recalibrating of Australian cricket.”