Mitch Marsh has accepted some of the blame for Australia's disastrous start to its Cricket World Cup campaign ahead of a must-win match against Sri Lanka on Monday night (AEDT). The Aussies - winless after successive defeats against cricket heavyweights India and South Africa - will likely need to win six of their remaining seven group matches to snatch one of the four spots up for grabs in the knockout phase.
Australia are five-time world champions in the 50-over competition but know another loss will leave them all but out of contention to make the semi-finals. Aussie captain Pat Cummins has found his leadership called into question from fans, as well as former great Michael Clarke, who has accused the Aussies of being too defensive - both with the bat and in the field.
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The Aussie batters have failed to get any meaningful partnerships going and have been accused of looking "unsettled" by Aussie legend Ian Healy, following a number of changes over the first two games. Coach Andrew McDonald dropped out-of-form allrounder Cameron Green, as well as wicketkeeper Alex Carey for the second game against South Africa but the changes failed to have any meaningful effect.
White-ball specialist paceman Sean Abbott is yet to feature for the Aussies, while Marsh, David Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne have all opened the batting without any great success. Marsh conceded that his performances so far - like other teammates - have not been up to scratch but he backed his side to turn things around.
Mitch Marsh concedes batting has not been good enough
"I still feel really good," Marsh said. "The other night (against South Africa) was tough conditions and I probably wasn't able to put pressure back on the bowlers, which is a strength of mine, certainly in the powerplay.
"Davey (Warner) and I haven't gotten off to a partnership yet, which really helps set up our innings. That's something we need to rectify and hopefully that's this game."
The powerful all-rounder concedes that Australia's form over its first two games is a concern but says wholesale changes to the starting XI are not necessary. "We're disappointed to not get off to the greatest start but the most important thing about tournament play is moving on to the next game really quickly," he added. "It's going to be a big challenge but we'll certainly be up and about for it."
Sri Lanka are also in somewhat of a desperate position after beginning their World Cup campaign with two losses like Australia, although they made the final of the Asia Cup on home soil last month and won their one-day international series against Australia on the subcontinent last winter. Marsh admits the conditions in Lucknow could play into Sri Lanka's hands.
"It's a massive game for us," Marsh said. "Sri Lanka, certainly in these conditions, will be a tough task, every team is in the World Cup. "We've got a very high skill-set in this group and we've got a lot of trust that we can turn this around."
Marsh was dismissed for zero and seven in Australia's first two matches and dropped a catch against India that could have dismissed Virat Kohli, who went on to score 85 and help the hosts home. The Aussie vice-captain remains defiant about his side's chances against Sri Lanka though, and argued that Australia's best displays often come when their backs are against the wall.
"A lot of Australian teams, when they're backed into a corner, play their best cricket. We've found ourselves in a corner early on in this tournament. "We've got to come out and put in a really good performance against Sri Lanka."
Michael Clarke urges Pat Cummins to be more aggressive
The Aussies may look to tweak their tactics slightly by going into the Sri Lanka clash with a more aggressive intent, something former skipper Clarke says Cummins "got wrong" against South Africa. “He (Cummins) won the toss and bowled, I think he ball-chased and I don’t think he was aggressive enough," Clarke said on Sky Sports Radio's The Big Sports Breakfast.
"I don’t think he looked to take wickets... the easiest way to slow scoring is to take wickets yet we continue in Twenty20 cricket and one-day cricket, to try and prevent runs. “How is Pat Cummins not bowling in the first 10 overs?
"Or even if you’re going Glenn Maxwell, like we did, you’ve got to have a slip to the left hander. You’ve probably got to have a bat-pad to the right hander, like you’ve got to look to take wickets early. I love him and I’m more than happy for him to be captain but he’s got to do some work on that.”
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