Only off-field issues can derail Australia’s World Cup bid

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As far as Ladbrokes are concerned there isn’t a side in existence that are better placed to beat Australia to this year’s cricket World Cup crown. As far as recent form heading into the tournament goes too, there is little to argue with either.

Australia haven’t lost a game in any format during their summer months, building up a head of steam in ODIs specifically ahead of the tournament with convincing wins over England (twice) and India.

Valid questions about how a seam-bowling unit that lacks experience after Mitchell Johnson would perform have been answered emphatically by Mitchell Starc during the Carlton Mid Tri-Series.

The fiery left-armer has claimed 12 wickets across the four matches he has played. He has bowled at high pace while swinging the ball into the right hander, proving that it’s not just the senior Mitchell oppositions should be wary off when they take guard.

The side have also coped remarkably well without their skipper, who isn’t expected to rejoin the team until the second group game against Bangladesh.

Michael Clarke’s absence would normally leave Australia rather weak in the middle order, but the emergence of Steve Smith as a world-leader with the willow has made the hole left by the captain’s injured hamstring go unnoticed.

Really, only one genuine issue threatens to derail Australia’s World Cup bid. The unwanted reports that Clarke, Cricket Australia and the rest of the squad are on a collision course regarding his return will be an ongoing distraction until clarity is gained during the tournament.

It stems from the board’s frustrations with an injury-riddled leader and their decision to hand Clarke a deadline to prove his fitness by the Bangladesh clash. Clarke feels that timeframe goes against private agreements he believed were in place, while his appearance as a guest pundit during Australia’s Test series with India ruffled a number of teammate’s feathers.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.