Steve Smith drives his team from the front. Photo: Mark NolanAustralia’s world champion one-day side is in the midst of a golden run rivalling the glory years of the Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting-led eras.
The likes of Steve Smith, David Warner, Aaron Finch and George Bailey might not carry the same gravitas of Waugh, Ponting, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist, but all have been key players in Australia’s recent dominance of the 50-over game.
Smith’s men can complete a 5-0 whitewash of India with victory in the final one-day international at the SCG on Saturday – and it will take a brave punter to bet against them.
Australia have a 26-4 win-loss record (excluding a no result) in 31 games since the series against Pakistan in the Middle East in October 2014. The run takes in a triumphant World Cup campaign plus series victories against India and South Africa – the second and third-ranked ODI teams respectively.
That run is comparable to the 26 wins from 29 completed games in 1999-2000 by Waugh’s World Cup winning team. Should Smith’s side maintain their form for another year they will match the feats of Ponting’s Australians in 2003-04 when they won 48 of 55 completed games, which includes a record streak of 21.
The winning habit has left their confidence sky high to the point where they truly believe they can win from any position.
“The way we pulled it back the other night was magnificent, we really shouldn’t have won that game,” Smith said. “The belief that was in the group at the time, the way we were able to execute our skills under pressure was very pleasing.
“We certainly don’t feel invincible or anything like that. We’re very confident in our skill set and what we have to bring to the table. We’ve had a lot of success of late and hopefully we can keep having some success to stay at No.1 in the world.”
Australia are well clear at the top of the ODI rankings, 17 points ahead of their nearest rival.
Their next challenge after the Indian series is across the Tasman against New Zealand, who they defeated in last year’s World Cup final.
Smith does not want selection for that three-game series to be influenced by the preparation for the ensuing Tests. He wants the best one-day side to be picked, even if that means Test batsmen Joe Burns or Usman Khawaja miss out on the chance to adjust to New Zealand conditions.
“As far as I’m concerned, I want to win every series we play. It’s another opportunity for guys to play away from home as well,” Smith said.
“We’ve been playing some very good cricket at home and I want to win another one-day series away. It’s about having the best guys on deck to do that.”
Saturday’s game will be the last time Smith captains his country on home soil this summer. He hands the reins over to Aaron Finch for the three-game Twenty20 series against India, creating the peculiar situation where the Test captain plays in the national team under another leader.
“I don’t think it will feel too different, I’ll still be a leader around the group,” Smith said.
Finch said he would not feel uncomfortable with the arrangement.
“I’m going to use him as much as I can for advice and for tactics and just small things like that,” Finch said. “Under my leadership I want everyone to have their plans and their own ideas and be able to feel comfortable to come with me no matter what the situation of the game.
“[I’ll be] very open and that will be no different with Steve there. It’s great to have him in the side.”
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