Bengaluru, April 15: With defending champions Australia brining back back two of their tainted heroes -- Steven Smith and David Warner -- for the ICC Cricket World Cup, the team's anaemic batting order gets a big boost for the quadrennial extravaganza.
The return of Smith and Warner is certainly the talking point in the 15-member squad to be led by Aaron Finch.
The duo served a year-long ban between March 2018 and 2019 after involving themselves in an ugly ball-tampering scandal during a Test series in South Africa and their national team had to pay the price dearly as the big two's absence ruined the balance in their batting.
The Kangaroos, currently ranked fifth in the ICC's ODI ranking, had a tough last one year, losing series both overseas and home.
However, they made a terrific return to form in their last two series, beating India 3-2 after trailing 0-2 and then Pakistan 5-0 on the Asian soil. The return of Smith and Warner will certainly boost the beleaguered batting order that plagued Australia over the last several months.
Of the two, Warner is especially in a great form in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), hitting one hundred and four fifties in seven matches so far (400 runs at an average of 80 and strike rate of 140 plus).
Smith though is not as dominant in IPL, having hit just one fifty, but he is too good a talent to remain subdued for two long. The World Cup is certainly going to be a stage for atonement for both, particularly Smith who had a tough time as the captain during the Sandpapergate.
Australia will kick off their campaign at the mega event on June 1 when they take on Afghanistan, who will be playing in just their second edition, in Bristol.
The subsequent opponents of the title defenders are the Windies (June 6), India (June 9), Pakistan (June 12), Sri Lanka (June 15), Bangladesh (June 20), England (June 25), New Zealand (June 29) and South Africa (July 6).
Finch will be the eighth captain to lead Australia in a World Cup after Ian Chappell (1975), Kim Hughes (1979 and 1983), Allan Border (1987 and 1992), Mark Taylor (1996), Steve Waugh (1999), Ricky Ponting (2003, 2007 and 2011) and Michael Clarke (2015).
Among the other decisions of significance, the Australian selectors left out fast bowler Josh Hazlewood and batsman Peter Handscomb while one of the Marsh brothers - Mitch - lost his central contract on the crucial day.
Handscomb, who also doubles up in as the wicket-keeper at times, played well in the series against India and hence his omission was surprising for many.
Of the 15 players picked for the 2019 World Cup, there are only six survivors from the 2015 edition -- Finch, Smith, Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Fast bowlers Starc and Jhye Richardson are still on their recovery paths from illness but the reports said they are progressing well and will be available for selection for the first match if there is no more setback.
Australia though may find it difficult to settle its opening pair with both Finch and Khawaja in good form and Warner back into the fold. Nevertheless, it will be a healthy competition that they won't mind to deal with.
Aaron Finch (captain), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa