Aussie stars’ secret World Cup weapon
The return of Steve Smith and David Warner will give Australia's World Cup defence something no amount of form can provide, according to Aussie star Glenn Maxwell - experience.
After the ball tampering bans finally expired, the pair returned to top flight cricket like they hadn't missed a beat.
But after a shaky start to life without Smith and Warner, Australia hit their straps in recent months with the side currently riding an eight-game winning streak in ODIs.
Maxwell has been a big part of the one-day success with the 100 ODI veteran in top form in recent series.
Playing a back seat role in Australia's ODI tour of India, he was the key in the T20s, being dismissed just once, including hitting 113 off just 55 balls in the series deciding match.
With Maxwell being shuffled around the order to provide Australia with acceleration or a calm head when needed, he came into his own by the end of the back-to-back Asian tours.
Playing in the UAE, Maxwell plundered with three 50s from four innings to average 64.50 at a strike rate of 139.46 as Australia won in a clean sweep over Pakistan.
He's been a key part of Australia's romp to eight straight ODI wins, which came just at the right time.
But despite the positive results without Smith and Warner, the 30-year-old Victorian superstar admitted the key to success would be experience, of which Smith and Warner have plenty.
While both have played in just over 100 ODIs, Warner, like Maxwell, will be going to his second World Cup, while Smith will be going to his third.
It will be a vital ingredient for the World Cup with the tournament set to be the closest on record.
"It's great to have their experience - experience is going to go a long way to winning this thing," Maxwell told news.com.au. "Guys that have played in these tournaments, it's so valuable to the side to know what to expect when you get to tournament play.
"Peaking at the right time, making sure you're mentally fresh and certain times as well. They're not easy tournaments for six weeks, you can be up and down emotionally as well and it can swallow you up at some times.
"It's not an easy tournament to be part of but if you can find a way to talk through your experiences with the younger guys and help them through at different times, it's going to be so valuable for us."
While David Warner was quiet in the warm up matches with New Zealand, his IPL form was incredible, hitting 692 runs at 69.20, including a century, finishing as the tournament's leading run scorer by 99 runs over KL Rahul.
Smith also hit 89 not out and 91 not out in the matches against the Kiwis, returning to the form Australia missed for most of last year.
Maxwell is also confident in his experience. At the last World Cup in Australia, he hit 324 runs at 64.80 with an incredible strike rate of 182.02.
Now playing a floating role, Maxwell said he's up for the challenge.
"A major thing for me is being able to adapt to different grounds, different oppositions and all the different times I can come in and bat in the order," he said.
"The biggest challenge is to get yourself in the right headspace mentally for what you're about to face. I think you can go through different thoughts when you start the game, whether you come out in the tenth over at 4/15 or 25th over at 1/180, it could be anything. You've got to be always on mentally and thinking about how you're going to start your innings with the different roles you're going to play."
However England will be a different proposition and one that Maxwell knows well, having just returned from a stint in the County competition.
In six one dayers, he averaged 31.00, as well as taking five wickets with his off-spin in the one four-day match he played.
He said it will be invaluable as Australia plan an English assault.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time over there," Maxwell said. "The timing going over there for a month and getting as much cricket as I did to get that much cricket in as a preparation for the World Cup was a perfect lead in. I'm really glad I got the time over there to work on my game and get an understanding of what's required to get runs over in England.
"The ball didn't really swing that much in the game we played, the wickets were actually a bit slower. I think you had to wait a little longer. In Australia you need to be a bit sharper and hit the ball on top of the bounce whereas in England you've just got to wait a little bit longer for the ball to come to you and try to hit it under your eyes."
With a firing Australian side hitting form, Maxwell is confident the buzz of the side will continue through the Cup.
With eight straight wins, the Australian squad is excited about what's ahead in England.
"Any time you can come into a World Cup preparation and you're bringing back five or six of your best players that had missed the last few series, it's really exciting for the group.
"We've had eight really good wins in a row in One-Day cricket and I suppose as a group we want to keep that going. The excitement around the guys coming back has been really good for us.
It's nice to have some fresh faces and their challenge is to continue on with the standards we've been setting in the past eight games to keep that momentum going for Australia and hopefully that can lead to the ultimate glory in early July."
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