You could have well been in the middle of an Australian Football League (AFL) press conference when Australia’s limited-overs vice-captain Alex Carey and communications manager Jeremy Arnold walked out to address the media in ahead of the series decider in New Delhi. Carey was inaugural captain of the Greater Western Sydney Giants while Arnold has previously worked with the Essendon football club.
It was at the Kotla in 2016 that New Zealand bounced back from losing the opener to force a five-match ODI series into a decider. Australia have done better, rebounding spectacularly from being 0-2 down to set up an exciting finish. Can they best India again and add the ODI trophy to the T20I trophy?
Carey was wary of India’s backlash, but backed his side to recoed their first ODI series win in India in 10 years. “I guess we were put under pressure early in the series and some games were really close,” he said. “Obviously [we’re] taking the momentum from the last game and the boys are confident. We know India are going to bounce back quickly from that but I guess for us, we thought we were playing good cricket in the first two games, but just fell short. To have the series at 2-2 we’re really excited.”
That Australia are in a position to challenge India for the trophy despite the absence of several first-choice players augers well for a side looking to peak at the right time. They are without the fast-bowling pair of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who are both recovering from injuries. Their finisher Marcus Stoinis joined them on the injury list when he broke his thumb while fielding in the third ODI in Ranchi. Meanwhile, Nathan Coulter-Nile had returned home after the second ODI in Nagpur for the birth of his second child.
However, Pat Cummins has impressed in rare outings with the new ball and has been ably backed up by Jhye Richardson. And Australia have found a new finisher in Ashton Turner, who pulled off their biggest ODI chase ever in Mohali.
To add to the cheer, the bans on Steven Smith and David Warner is set to expire on March 29, and while they’re not going to play immediately for Australia, they’re very much in World Cup contention and will have an opportunity at getting back into the groove at the IPL. Amid this, Carey talked up Australia’s bench strength and believed that they will be a potent force in the 2019 World Cup in England.
There might be some big names that might come back to the line-up; the [ones] in the side now are performing really well,” he said. “So, it’s totally healthy for Australian cricket that the guys that are in the side are playing well. The guys that have done well in the past will definitely put their hands up for selection when they’re available.
“As a player in the Australian cricket side, we’ve been working hard in the past 12-18 months and there are some successes starting to come our away. We’re really confident with the squad we take – whoever that is – to the World Cup. But, we have tomorrow to focus on, and we’re really confident about it. It’s pressure-cricket and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Carey is used to opening the batting for South Australia and Adelaide Strikers, but has now embraced a middle-order role, tackling spinners and employing his dabs and sweeps. When the Strikers clinched the BBL title in 2017-18 , Carey bent the opposition attack out of shape with power, but here in India he has been killing the opposition more softly. How has he adapted?
“I’ve really enjoyed my role batting down the middle or lower order,” he said. “Obviously the scoreboard will dictate my role in the game, if it’s trying to set up a target or try and get the side over the line. I really enjoy working with the other batter who is in.
“You see Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch have had great success in opening the batting as well. I guess it’s a strength of the Australian cricket side that we have a lot of options. D’Arcy Short did a great job in the two T20s. Shaun Marsh is at the top of the order as well. I’m really enjoying my role in the lower-middle order. Certainly, I want to keep getting better at but so far, it’s been enjoyable.”
After addressing the media, Carey was the first to get the ground and train with Brad Haddin, the assistant coach, and Matthew Hayden and Mitchell Johnson – commentators who have often been seen at the team’s training session. Looking at him resonate confidence of the team, you’d think India won’t have it easy in the finale.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.