Aussies look to raw pace to rise from Ashes
Mumbai: Australia will unleash their hungry pacemen against Zimbabwe in their World Cup opener on Monday in the first step to re-establish themselves as the undisputed dominant force in the one-day game.
Despite being the number one ranked ODI side in the world and coming into the tournament on the back of a hat-trick of World Cup titles, Australia are no longer considered the force which clinched the trophy in 1999, 2003 and 2007.
Ricky Ponting`s side will look to stamp their authority once again in Monday`s Group A encounter against admittedly weak opposition following two heavy warm-up defeats by co-hosts India and South Africa.
"It`s quite clear we are the number one ranked team in the world," Ponting had said, before reminding reporters of their unbeaten 29-match streak in the tournament.
"Our World Cup record speaks for itself and we have a really good balance of youth and experience in the squad to succeed in the tournament."
The 3-1 Ashes drubbing at the hands of England at the start of the year still left a sour taste for the Australians despite the 6-1 hammering they dished out to their bitter rivals in the ODI series that followed.
The injuries to experienced batsman Mike Hussey and spinners Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty have only compounded their problems before the start of the showpiece event they are trying to win for the fifth time in total.
The comprehensive defeats against India and South Africa and the batsmen`s failure to smother spin on both occasions have left considerable doubts about their ability to prevail once more in the subcontinent.
But come Monday, they will have no better opportunity and arguably no easier opponents than Zimbabwe to get back to winning ways.
Their pace battery of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson would be enough to worry most batting line-ups here even on the slow subcontinental pitches and should certainly be too much for Zimbabwe to handle.
Nevertheless, Zimbabwe have the odd player capable of keeping the Aussies on their toes and boast a reasonable spin attack led by the experienced Ray Price.
The African country may even hand the new ball to a spinner.
"For us, definitely it will be an option," Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher said.
"Over the last year, our spinners have been our best bowlers and I have seen they are improving. In any conditions, your best bowlers are your best options."
The Australian spin attack, in contrast, has been struggling with off-spinner Jason Krejza and leg spinner Steve Smith being the only regular options to choose from.
"I think spin bowling is going to play a big part in this tournament," vice-captain Michael Clarke said after the warm-up defeat against South Africa on Tuesday.
"Firstly, how you bowl it and then how you face it as well."
So far, Australia have not impressed here in either department.