For close to a decade, starting from the late 1990s and right through the noughties, Australian teams had mastered the art of winning titles. That too in style. Three World Cups, two Champions Trophies and not to forget the Ashes won by a 5-0 margin as recently as January this year. Somehow though, the T20 crown has always seemed to elude them.
While they were knocked out of the inaugural edition in the semifinals by India and were runners-up to England in 2010, Australia have never looked their naturally dominant selves at previous World T20s. Rarely have they showed up for the party with that indomitable Aussie authority.
There is something different about the present George Bailey-led outfit that has turned up in Bangladesh, however. More than ever before, they seem to possess the potential to tick that elusive box. Key all-rounder Shane Watson for one certainly seems to think so.
“This I know now is an incredible squad. Apart from Mitch Johnson being out with a toe infection, this is the best squad that we have put together in a T20 tournament. We have fire-power in batting till No 10 and a couple of very good death bowlers. We have a lot of balance in our team. You need a lot of guys who can make a difference in the team and we have got those,” he said.
When it comes to team composition, Watson is on the money, even if ‘incredible’ might sound a tad hyperbolic. They have power-hitters at the top and in the middle order, they carry experienced spinners in the side. Moreover, their batsmen can bowl spin while the fast bowlers are fast and crafty.
Australia might seem to have all their bases covered not just when it comes to the strength of their squad. But more importantly, they also have in their mix a number of individuals, both in terms of personnel and support staff, who have tasted major success in T20 cricket.
Watson, who was recently named Rajasthan Royals skipper for IPL7, himself was part of the same franchise when they lifted the title in the maiden edition. For now, he has his skipper from 2008, and the man under whom he grew in stature, back on his side with Shane Warne being drafted in as spin consultant for Australia ahead of the World T20. Then there’s Darren Lehmann, who coached Deccan Chargers to IPL glory in 2009 and is credited by many including Watson for having triggered a dramatic turnaround in his team’s fortunes.
The list of T20 victors in the Australian squad doesn’t stop there. Mitchell Johnson was part of the Mumbai Indians outfit that won the IPL last year. But though he’s out with a toe infection, his replacement Nathan Coulter-Nile was with him in Mumbai. The right-arm pacer was also with Perth Scorchers, winners of the Big Bash last month while Bailey was skipper of Hobart Hurricanes who finished runners-up. Johnson’s like-for-like replacement Doug Bollinger is no stranger to IPL glory either, having won the IPL twice with the Chennai Super Kings.
“There are guys coming through (Big Bash). Look a major reason (for improvement) is the high quality of cricket in the IPL, Big Bash and throughout the world in other leagues. We have got such a strong squad,” Watson added.
Then there are the two ageless Brads. Few batsmen have scored more T20 runs than Hodge while chinaman exponent Hogg has found a spring in his aging strides and outsmarted a number of guys half his age in the Big Bash. Hodge will also have crucial inputs from his time as Barisal Burners captain in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
And Bailey in his second World T20 as captain will have the bonus of having a number of leaders by his side, from predecessor Cameron White to Aaron Finch. And there’s Watson. This might well be the time for the men from Down Under to once and for all add that slippery T20 prize to their burgeoning trophy-cabinet.