Australia is gearing up to defend the ICC Cricket World Cup title as they bid for an unprecedented sixth title. Under Aaron Finch’s captaincy, the team’s fortunes have been on the upswing. Australia won an ODI series in India for the first time since 2009 and trounced Pakistan 0-5 in the ODI series in the UAE. The team has received a boost with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner after serving their one-year bans due to the ball-tampering scandal during the Newlands Test against South Africa in March 2018. While Warner was the leading run-getter in the IPL with 692 runs, Smith was the star in the three warm-up games against New Zealand.
With the team already in England, Australia is expected to get a hostile reception with Smith and Warner being the prime targets. Coach Justin Langer admitted that the crowd cannot be controlled. “We can't control the crowd. It may ramp up, it may heat up, but it won't be any hotter than it was twelve months ago. I've never seen anything like it so the boys are very well prepared. They've paid a heavy price and we're always expecting to come here and to face the fire and we're ready for that,” Langer said.
When Australia toured England in June 2018, they were whitewashed 5-0 and lost the one-off Twenty20 International. In the entire series, crowds taunted the Australian team by getting yellow sandpaper to the ground. Langer has said the Australian team has the responsibility to offer a comforting arm to both Smith and Warner when they are targeted by the fans.
“What we've got to understand is that they're human beings as well. There's not too many I've met in my life who like being booed or heckled or disliked so they're human beings. We're going to have to care for them. We are going to have to put an arm around them and make sure they're going ok. But what people say, whether it's in the crowd or social media or wherever there's nothing they can do about that they can't control it but what we can do is keep an eye on them and make sure they're going ok as people as much as cricketers,” Langer said.
The Australian coach, however, was full of praise for Smith’s batting and said he saw the hunger to succeed in Warner.
“As a batsman it's brilliant. I watched Steve Smith batting against New Zealand in those three practice games, he's literally a master of the game, so it's nice to have him back. It's been hilarious for me because whether on the ANZAC cove or in the lunchroom or we're in the bus playing cards, he's just shadow batting the whole time. He's literally loves batting, he's shadow batting on the sand, he's shadow batting in the shower. I'm not joking! You should see him mate! He just loves batting. From that point, it's great to have him back. Dave's got that look on his eye, he's really hungry, he's a great player as we all know, he's so dynamic, he brings so much energy, and that's what we ask from our players,” Langer said.
Australia will play two warm-up games against England and Sri Lanka on May 25 and May 27 and will open their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on June 1 in Bristol County Ground.