‘We need a magic wand’: World Cup expectations weighing down Australia

Former great and Cricket Australia board member Mel Jones believes Meg Lanning's side is still being weighed down by the pressure of being favourites at a home World Cup.

Jones, a two-time World Cup winner, says Australia's narrow win against Sri Lanka on Monday night, their first of the tournament, would only have had a minor effect on easing the tension within the camp.

Captain Meg Lanning hit 41 for the Australians in their win over Sri Lanka.Credit:Getty Images

The Australians are due to fly to Canberra on Tuesday with their World Cup campaign sitting on a knife's edge. They face another crucial clash on Thursday against Bangladesh, which they must win to keep alive their hopes of defending their title.

It has been far from the ideal start for Australia, whose title defence has been beset by numerous issues.

Key players Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry have been down on runs. Star speedster Tayla Vlaeminck was ruled out of the World Cup due to injury, and their form is well down from their usual standards.

Jones believes the pressure of expectation is weighing heavily on the side, which started the tournament red-hot favourites to win a fifth World Cup.

Much of the marketing of the event is centred on breaking the world record attendance for a women's sporting event at the final on International Women's Day, which is heavily reliant on Australia qualifying for the March 8 decider.

"It is intense and it's not just because it's the Australian women's team at home," Jones said.

"There's so many other levels in and around this World Cup. The final on International Women's Day, the sense cricket is making a massive stride forward.

"Even the overlay of the FIFA Women's World Cup last year in France, the whole women's sport, global movement, there are a lot of eyes on this tournament from other sports."

Jones says the Australians' public comments about embracing the pressure was a positive but this is uncharted territory for the national women's team.

"To say we're embracing and trying to enjoy a home World Cup – we haven't had one since 2009 – I get that completely," Jones said on SEN.

"When you boil down to it, Meg Lanning has never been in that situation before as Australian captain. There's a couple of players who have come into this tournament without the form they would have liked either.

"So that's another overlay on top of it again. We need a bit of a magic wand to try and alleviate all the stresses as quickly as possible."

Jones, who is working as a commentator at the tournament, said there were mixed emotions among her broadcast colleagues as it became apparent Australia could have been eliminated as early as day four.

"Everyone realised for the state of the tournament Australia going through is such a pivotal part to it," Jones said.

"The overseas broadcasters having the home team and such a dominant side as well – and remember a lot of the commentators are former players who have played against Australia, they got quite excited – there's looks across the room as if to say you're going to go down, then you can see them thinking about it and we actually don't want it to happen."

Jones does not believe conditions at the Junction Oval will be in Australia's favour next Monday when they play New Zealand in a game that is likely to decide if they progress beyond the group stage.

"They've had a big, big summer of cricket at the Junction Oval, so there won't be those true wickets we're probably used to seeing in the big tournaments like this so they will have to find a away again," Jones said.

"Their solution finding hasn't been absolutely bang on. They'll have to make sure their plans coming to the Junction Oval is absolutely spot on."

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