Seven wins out of eight matches- the mighty Australians are cruising at the ICC World Cup. They didn’t necessarily enter the extravaganza as firm favourites, but the returns of David Warner, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc’s laser-guided deliveries are helping the defending champions facile victories against the best of oppositions.

Along with the above mentioned stars who have taken the World Cup by storm, Aaron Finch’s form with the bat and his captaincy has drawn positive reviews. Not to mention, the likes of Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile have played their part at some point in time.

But, there’s always one focused, relatively quiet Aussie who has been among the top performers. Yes, we are throwing light on the ever-so-reliable Alex Carey. Regardless of the situation, the southpaw has come in and hit the ball to its merit, played with positive intent and aided his team to a bigger stride.

Whenever you thought the Men in Yellow are in a slump, Carey has, without any fuss, boosted his team’s shot at winning the match.

Gambling against the odds with Carey

Australia Nets Session - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Australia Nets Session – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Press the rewind button to 2018, when Australian cricket hit an all-time low. Off-field issues, change in management and captaincy, lack of team balance, spontaneous and reckless changes to the team and losses of course, had hovered over the team’s face like a dark cumulonimbus.

And boy, the thunderstorm destroyed the morale of the team and its players. All of a sudden, a giant looked like slumbering for a significant amount of time. Then came 2019, when lots of fractures still were to be fixed.

Tim Paine was left with too much to answer to the demanding media, with no victories to show for. White-wash against England, Test series defeat at the hands of Pakistan, home loss to India and a lot more had cornered the continent.

At that very moment, the selectors were sighting a squad overhaul, when more often than not, they were trying out various combinations; often trying to clap with one hand.

There was an in-form Matthew Wade, perhaps in the form of his life, a tried and tested Peter Nevill and a couple of other glove men who were in contention for Australia’s limited overs spot, but the management gave the responsibility earlier held by the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Ian Healy, to 27-year-old Alex Carey.

Not the most eye-catching player around, Carey’s career with the bat was as scrappy as it got. He got starts more often than not, but those runs came at pedestrian pace, and certainly not as per the situation’s demands.

He did register a couple of failures here and there as well, and that’s when everyone wondered why the dangerous Matthew Wade was not in the setup. Then came the all-important ODI series against India, at India.

It would obviously have been quite a task for him to go out there on those dry, slow, turning pitches, and give it a real rattle with the bat. Substandard scores of 36*, 22, 21*, 21 and 3 were stamped in his record books at the sub-continent. He did produce handy knocks, but left a lot to be desired.

Fast forward, and Alex Carey is holding Australia’s middle order, sometimes all by himself. The long levers of players like Maxwell and Stoinis haven’t yet arrived at the party, but Carey’s composure at the crease has helped Australia get back to the echelons of world cricket.

No ‘perfect World Cup win’ for Australia? No problem with Alex Carey at the crease

England v Australia – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Warm Up
England v Australia – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Warm Up

Surely, credit now goes to the selectors for dishing out the gambles at the lesser likely odds. Carey is defying expectations and making himself a dependable figure among the Australian faithful.

Now, Australia were definitely not up to the standard of the likes of India and England, not only in terms of firepower but also the team balance and experience. They had no right to be on top, but they have done so by digging out victories, just when it looked like it’s all slipping away.

The mighty Aussies haven’t really rounded off a real authoritative performance, if seen in many ways. Against England, despite registering 123 for the first wicket in no time, they were paused at 285/7. A heroic spell from Jason Behrendorff with the new ball guided the team to victory.

Here, in the space of 55 runs, the visitors lost Khawaja, Finch, Maxwell and Stoinis. Along with the remodelling of the innings, the scoring had to be done in a brisk manner. Up stepped Alex Carey with an unbeaten 38 off just 27.

Against India as well, when the upper middle order failed to capitalise on the starts, the left-hander came in and smoked the ball from the outset, racing to 55 off just 35 deliveries.

That innings spoke volumes of his ability – against arguably the best bowling attack in the world, under tough conditions, against a sea of Blue supporters, with no batsman in assistance, Carey creamed the ball to the gaps across the ground and kept Australia afloat.

He doubled these credentials with a match-winning 71 against Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

In a troublesome scenario at Lord’s on a rough surface, a high-flying Australian outfit was handed a reality check, when the Black Cap bowlers sent back in-form batsmen Aaron Finch and David Warner early on. The likes of Smith, Maxwell and Stoinis perished sooner too, leaving the side languishing on a blood-curdling 92/5.

Usman Khawaja was controlling a rearguard knock, but Carey entered the scene and completed swerved the flow of proceedings. Not only did he watchfully play the opposition, but also free the burden off Khawaja’s shoulders.

He executed cricketing shots, played the ball right under his nose and pierced the field and masterminded a blissful 71 off 72 balls.

Innovating his way through an innings, topping it with consistency

Alex Carey finds his own ways to score runs
Alex Carey finds his own ways to score runs

We’ve listed out Carey’s journey through this WC, along with his contributions over the last 15 months or so, but it’s now time to take out the microscope and analyse what makes him so good at what he does.

Carey does not over-hit the ball. He plays at a quick rate and doesn’t fear the score board or the loss of wickets. What makes him such a tough nut to crack?

If noticed carefully, Carey doesn’t poke at deliveries on the fourth and fifth stump line early on in his innings. His strike rate of over 300 against deliveries in the slot testify why he’s such a determined and focused character. Right from ball one, the finisher decides to steal runs off balls that are in the arc.

He refrains from trying to produce something out of nothing, and plays each ball on its merit. Anything wide off the stumps, and Carey pounces on it. It’s his decisive nature that sets him apart.

The wicket-keeper batsman is also a fine player of spin.

Positivity runs through his veins, as noticed in the fixture against New Zealand. Wickets were tumbling, but the Adelaide Strikers man just came in and crunched the ball to all parks. Oh yes, he’s a player who can churn out boundaries all over the park.

He is not always text book, but Carey’s blade fetches him a lot of runs on the vertical sides of the cricket field.

Could Australia get more out of Carey?

Could Australia push Maxwell down the order to make room for Alex Carey?
Could Australia push Maxwell down the order to make room for Alex Carey?

Australia have been extremely flexible with the way they have used Glenn Maxwell. He has been promoted up the order quite a few number of times, and been asked to boost the scoring rate and provide a flourish to the innings at the business end, but the explosive willow-wielder has endured a torrid time in the middle.

He has failed to steady the innings or bat till the end. The same goes with seasoned all-rounder Marcus Stoinis.

Meanwhile, the man of the moment – Alex Carey – has tallied 244 runs in this WC batting at number 7. In the history of cricket’s most prestigious tournament, Carey has posted the most number of runs by anyone batting outside the top six.

That makes you wonder, shouldn’t he be Australia’s number 5? Not only would that guarantee more deliveries to him, but also reduce the responsibility on the out-of-sorts Glenn Maxwell.