At the start of year, Australia were rank outsiders to lift the World Cup 2019. But a change in fortunes, beginning with a win against a formidable Indian team in the One-Day International (ODI) series in India, followed by a whitewash of Pakistan in the ODI series in UAE, has rejuvenated the team and Australia head to the 2019 World Cup in top form. The series wins over India and Pakistan, helped Australia register a eight-game win streak in ODIs before winning their "unofficial" three-game series against New Zealand in Brisbane 2-1. With Australia also welcoming back Steve Smith and David Warner, returning from their one-year bans for ball-tampering, the men from Down Under suddenly look as one of the big tournament favourites. The upturn in results, juxtaposed with the return of Smith and Warner, has led to legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne making a bold prediction.
Warne said not only does he believe Australia can win the World Cup, but thinks "they will win win the World Cup".
"I think everybody wrote Australia off because they were pretty ordinary and played some poor cricket over the last 12 months, but over the last couple of months, the ODI team has found its belief. They have started to think like all the Aussie sides of yesteryears and they think they can win it from anywhere. And you can't manufacture that. You have to do it a few times," Warne told IANS.
"I think going into the World Cup, India and England have to be the favourites because they have played the best cricket in recent times. But if you look back at the history of how Australia performed at World Cups, they won the last World Cup and have won 4 of the last 6 tournaments so they enjoy the big tournament and I believe they can win the World Cup and I think they will win the World Cup."
However, the former Australia star still believes India and England are among the favourites. The 49-year-old said Smith will be a "huge player" for Australia and his one-year ban was a big loss for the team.
"However, they have to get past a very strong India and England side. If you ask me who are the favourites, it is India and England, but I just think Australia have come back together at the right time and you put Warner and Smith in that mix, it is suddenly looking a very good side.
"He (Smith) is a huge player. If you look back at the time in March last year and you say who were the top five players in the world, you would say Kohli, AB de Villiers, Steve Smith, David Warner and Kane Williamson. So Australia had two of the top five players and to lose them was a big loss," he said.
Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets on home turf to be crowned champions in 2015 and extend their record as the tournament's most successful team. From the 11 World Cups played, they have won five and were losing finalists on two other occasions.
Coach Justin Langer and Aaron Finch have not only steadied the ship after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa but emphatically turned it around.
Now they have potential game-changers Smith and Warner back, confidence is sky-high.
Australia begin their 2019 World Cup campaign against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1.