Before the start of the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup, the Aussies referred to T20 as a “hit-and-giggle” format. Nine years and five T20 World Cup’s later, Australia still find their trophy cabinet empty. Yes the Aussies do now take T20s a lot more seriously but it’s still very clear that they prioritise Tests and ODIs a lot higher. How else can you explain them sending the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith early to New Zealand to prepare for a Test series, during an ongoing T20 series against India?
Nine out of Australia’s 15 have played in the various editions of the IPL. So even though Australia hasn’t toured India for over a year, the core of their team has had plenty of experience of playing cricket in India.
In the form of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell, Australia possess some of the biggest power hitters in modern day cricket. These four have the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the ground and have a high six hitting percentage. Even if one of them clicks, Australia can be sure that they will be able to post a score over 180.
All Round Skill
Maxwell, Watson, James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh provide great balance to the squad. Over the years Faulkner has become the death over specialist both with the bat and ball. Marsh has shown glimpses of his big hitting skills and has the ability to bowl few steady overs in the middle of the innings. Watson, who few months ago was dropped from the Australian team and probably believed his career was over, is enjoying his second run with the Australian T20 squad. He recently scored a 100 against India at Sydney and also took crucial wickets through the tournament at a good economy rate. Watson is one of the better players of spin in the Australian squad and is more than capable of clearing the boundary line at will. Maxwell is a one of a kind cricketer who can win the game with the bat, ball or in the field. His big hitting skills are second to none and will have a crucial role to play with the ball as well.
Lack of a Quality Spinner
When playing in India, the role of a spinner is very crucial in the success of a team, irrespective of the format. Australia arrives in India with two front line spinners – Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar.
23-year-old Zampa has bowled his leg breaks with skill and done well in the Big Bash but expecting him to dominate in the World T20 will be a huge ask of the young bowler.
Agar started his career as a front line left arm spinner and has become a bit of a slogger. Again his lack of experience in the international circuit will make it challenging for him.
Over the past month Australia have been juggling with their spinning options and Zampa took the lead over the other two options – Cameron Boyce and Nathan Lyon.
Australia also have option in Glenn Maxwell. Maxwell as a part timer, can bowl two – three overs if needed. Neither does he turn the ball big, nor does he have many variations to trouble quality batsmen.
Only a year ago did the Australians win the ODI World Cup. However there have been two big changes in the bowling line up. Mitchell Johnson who had been Australia’s leading bowler has retired and Australia’s man of the tournament Mitchell Starc is injured. Starc’s absence is a huge blow for Australia. He could pick up wickets with his lethal yorkers at any stage of the innings. Australia’s current bowling line up lacks that incisive edge due to his absence. Australia’s front line seamers now are Nathan Coulter Nile and Josh Hazelwood. Coulter Nile has been on the international scene for a while now, but hasn’t had a consistent run in the Australian squad. Hazelwood is more of a conventional out swinger who bowls Test match lengths.
One dimensional keeper
In today’s times a T20 Keeper is not just a wicket keeper, he is also expected to be a big hitter. Most teams have one. Be it MS Dhoni, Quinton de Kock or Jos Buttler. This trend was started by another Aussie – Adam Gilchrist. From whatever we have seen of Philip Nevill he seems to be more suited to Test Matches. Australia have been persisting with Matthew Wade in limited over cricket for the past year due to his power hitting skills, but he hasn’t made the most of his opportunities forcing the selectors to make a change. Even during the T20s against India, they picked a part time keeper Cameron Bancroft due to his big hitting success in the Big Bash, however in that game he missed a crucial stumping that lead to a debate whether the team needs a batsmen who can keep or a specialist keeper. By deciding to go ahead with a specialist keeper they may have lost the opportunity to play a power hitter at number 7.
Unsettled Batting Line Up
In their last six T20’s the Aussies have changed their batting line up in every game. Their opening combination is also very unsettled. Finch and Warner were the obvious choice to open the batting. Usman Khawaja had a terrific Big Bash and forced himself into the squad. So to accommodate him it looked like Finch and Khawaja would open and Warner would come 1 or 2 down. Then Watson was given the opportunity to open the batting and he made it count scoring a big hundred against India. So now the question is who will open the batting. If Watson doesn’t open he may not play at all, as Mitchell Marsh has taken the role of being the middle order all rounder.
Explosive Middle Order
With Warner batting at 4 and Maxwell at 5, any score looks chaseable. In the second T20 against South Africa, Warner and Maxwell enjoyed a fourth wicket partnership of 161 runs, taking Australia to victory from 32 for 3. Over the past few years, Maxwell single handedly had the responsibility of taking on the role of the power hitter in the middle order. But Maxwell plays a high risk, high rewards game. If it comes off, Australia wins and if it doesn’t he gets a lot of criticism. Having someone as explosive as Warner as well in the middle order will free up Maxwell even more and will let him take on the bowling with more freedom.
The world doesn’t know too much about the Khawaja, Agar, Andrew Tye and Zampa. This tournament provides them with the ideal opportunity to leave their mark in international cricket. Khawaja has had a phenomenal year, doing exceedingly well in the Big Bash and cementing his spot at number 3 in the Australian Test squad. He, unlike many of the other Australian great’s is a very wristy player and is good against the spinners and this will hold him in good stead in the sub-continental conditions. Andrew Tye is a very smart and effective T20 bowler known for his variations in pace. Playing on low and slow Indian tracks he too could be a very effective bowler.