Some may dismiss the importance the UK tour’s white ball segment, but after relinquishing the urn, Steve Smith has labelled the ODI series as integral to Australia’s rebuilding process following their disappointing Ashes showing. As whites are swapped for green and gold, new players will have the opportunity to prove their international credentials ahead of a hectic Australian summer schedule that culminates with the ICC T20 World Cup 2016 in India. Burns, Maxwell, Cummins, Agar and Watson will not only be looking to cement their ODI positions, but will also be fighting for a spot in the Test XI, where places have arguably never been more attainable given the frailties shown in the Ashes series, which also saw the retirement of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers.
Momentum is an important aspect of sustained success, although Australia have recently been on the wrong side of its benefits. Prior to the Ashes this year England proved that ODI victories can be leveraged to improve performances in the Test arena, as their scintillating 3-2 series win against ICC World CUP 2015 finalists, New Zealand, led to marked improvements in the five day format. If Australia were to add an ODI series victory to a comprehensive 5th Test performance at The Oval, psychologically it would give Smith’s new starting XI a lift before the upcoming challenges against Bangladesh, New Zealand and the West indies.
With an influx of new players coming into the side, Steve Smith and David Warner must use their Captain and Vice-Captain status to welcome and nurture the new talent. With only 122 ODI caps between them they are still relatively young in their own careers, however a combination of Smith’s maturity and Warner’s (controlled) aggression can provide the team with a platform to kick on from. With neither having experienced smooth rides to the top of the game, Smith and Warner have bags of know-how when it comes to dealing with the stresses of international sport. Their ability to impart this knowledge can play a big role in the development of younger players coming in.
Selectors underlined their intention to establish a settled T20 line up by flying Cameron Boyce over from Australia for what turned out to be only 6 balls of action. Whilst Fox Sports are labelling this the “most expensive over of all-time” it is clear to see Australia’s commitment to adding T20 silverware to the trophy cabinet. As Boyce starts his long trip back home his counterparts must turn their attention to winning the UK ODI series before considering anything beyond that. With upcoming fixtures against England, Bangladesh and New Zealand providing very different challenges, we might begin to see more short-term cameos from players as selectors search for the most effective combinations for dealing with those conditions. Although let’s hope that next time Boyce at least gets a go with the bat if he’s only going to bowl one over.
It goes without saying that the most coveted part of the tour is over, however Smith’s pragmatic approach to the squads remaining time in England is a step in the right direction, and outlines the start of an important rebuilding process on all fronts of the Australian game.