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The battle for a play-off spot continues in Canberra on Thursday
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Cricket World Cup: Australia have options as Pat Cummins cover

Fast bowler Pat Cummins is expected to captain Australia in their bid to win the 50-over World Cup despite currently being sidelined by a wrist injury sustained during the Ashes series.

Cummins sustained a fractured wrist during the final match of the drawn series in England, but expects to be able to join up with the Baggy Greens for the tail-end of their limited-overs tour of South Africa.

A playing return during the following series in India appears to be the most likely scenario, with the first ODI on the sub-continent taking place in Mohali on Friday 22nd September.

Australia’s World Cup opener is also against hosts India and that is scheduled for Sunday 8th October in Chennai.

However, should Cummins not pull up right, who are the candidates to lead the bid for a record-extending World Cup triumph?

What2023 Cricket World Cup
WhenThursday 5th October - Sunday 19th November 2023
How to watchFoxtel, Kayo
OddsIndia 3.20, England 4.00, Australia 5.00

Mitchell Marsh

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh would not have been mentioned as a possibility a few months ago.

However, he has returned to the Baggy Greens fold after injury and made such an impression that he has been named as the skipper of the T20I side for the 20-over action in South Africa.

Marsh is also clearly a leading candidate to step in should Cummins' recovery not go to plan, with the paceman recently telling reporters: "He's always been a huge member of the team. A real leader."

Marsh made his ODI debut for Australia way back in October 2011 and has since racked up 72 appearances, making 2008 runs at an average of 34.62, with a lone century coming against India in Sydney in January 2016.

He has also taken 54 wickets at 35.42 and, if the 31-year-old can avoid further fitness woes, he is obviously a player earmarked for a major role as several senior stars prepare to exit the international stage.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith is perhaps the most obvious candidate to take up the reins should Cummins be ruled out of the World Cup, however, the veteran batter has fitness issues of his own to overcome.

Like Cummins he is currently out of action due to a problem with his left wrist and will miss the whole of the tour of South Africa.

That leaves just the three-match ODI series in India left to get ready for the global showpiece and the Baggy Greens may well want Smith to focus solely on getting himself ready to take his place as a batter.

Noises from the Australia camp have sent out the signal that Marsh is the top candidate to replace Cummins if that is necessary, even if at times it seemed like Smith was the skipper during the Ashes series in England.

Marnus Labuschagne may also have been an option had he had not been omitted from the party to face the Proteas, meaning his World Cup hopes appeared to have been dashed.

However, the injury to Smith has offered Labuschagne a chance to impress in South Africa, although a jump to leading the side is very much a long shot.

Josh Hazlewood

Concerns have been voiced about the workload Cummins takes on as both strike bowler and captain, which suggests that asking fellow seamer Josh Hazlewood to fill in would be an unlikely option.

However, Hazlewood did lead the Baggy Greens in one one-dayer when England were last in Australia and is currently the top-ranked bowler in the official ODI world rankings.

Having overcome injury problems of his own, the 32-year-old right-armer is very much a major part of plans for the World Cup, having taken 108 wickets at 25.61 in the 69 ODIs he has played to date.

He is an option, but he is certainly not top of the list and should Australia turn to Hazlewood, it would represent a major surprise.

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