Australia has been left behind and is playing catch-up ahead of the World Cup, according to assistant coach Brad Haddin.
The World Cup winner, who serves as the side’s fielding coach, made the blunt admission speaking on Fox Sports ahead of the first one-day international between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Defending World Cup champions Australia had a disastrous 2018, where they won just two from 13 ODI’s and in the process lost five bilateral series.
Worryingly, their struggles in 2018 continued a theme of poor results in one-day cricket where they managed just one win from their last five matches in 2017.
Over the course of those results — from February 2017 to December 2018 — Australia used a staggering 32 players too. That number rises to 34 with the inclusions of Usman Khawaja and Peter Siddle, the latter whom is making his first ODI appearance in eight years.
At the heart of their problems is the batting, where Australia averaged just 27.68 runs per wicket with the bat in 2018 — its lowest since 1997.
“I think it’s our style of play, to be honest. The game’s moved forward since the 2015 World Cup and I don’t think we’ve quite moved that way with the trends of the game, so from our point of view it’s making sure that we get our style right — you’ve got to score 300 plus to be competitive,” Haddin told Fox Sports.
Indeed, an examination of the numbers shows that Australia posted 300 or more just three times in 2018 from 13 matches.
England, the current No 1 nation, made eight from 24 matches, New Zealand five from 16 and India four from 20.
Haddin said Australia needed to take the shackles off and play with freedom to challenge for this year’s World Cup, which gets underway at The Oval in May.
“I think we’ve just played like we’re a bit scared,” Haddin said.
“But we know in one-day cricket you’ve got to make sure that you’re playing brave and moving the game forward.”
Former World Cup winners Shane Warne and Allan Border agreed, believing that Australia was struggling to get the combination right between power batsmen and accumulators.
“They’ve decided to go with the cautious approach and just see how that looks,” Warne said in commentary for Fox Sports.
“Obviously a lot depends on Aaron Finch at the top of the order. He’s such a powerful player, he got the most runs in the calendar year last year for Australia, so they need him to fire. But if he doesn’t fire, you look at (Usman) Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, (Peter) Handscomb there’s not much firepower after that.
“And as Aaron Finch said to me at the toss, ‘we want to have wickets in hand through the middle overs. We’ve struggled against the spinners and then have wickets in-hand and excel and bash it at the end.’
“Is that the style that’s going to win you a World Cup?”
He added: “They’re really stuck because going the power option very rarely have they been able to bat the 50 overs. I think they’ve gone too much to the extreme. I think it’s somewhere in-between they’ll eventually get there before the World Cup — they’ll have a mixture of power and precision.”
Border, who led Australia to their maiden World Cup triumph in 1997, also criticised the structure currently in place.
“Do you reckon we’re just playing a bit of lip service to our domestic 50 over?” Border said in commentary.
“So developing players. We play our JLT Cup at the start of the season on club grounds really and it’s over and done with in a month, and that’s 50 over cricket done with domestically. So are we developing the right sort of players? Like, who did well in the JLT Cup? No one really remembers.”
The three leading runscorers from the JLT — Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott and D’Arcy Short — were each dropped for the ODI series against India.