For all of Australia’s dominance of world cricket over the years, the country has always been lagging behind in the shortest format of the game with zero titles and only one finals appearance to their name in the six previous editions of the tournament. Their recent form has also taken a massive nosedive, leaving them 7th in the T20I rankings after suffering series defeats to West Indies, New Zealand and also Bangladesh in 2021. Unfortunately, with an ageing team filled with players past their prime, that barren run is expected to continue in this edition with a squad that is unlikely to compete with top teams such as India and England.
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THE SQUAD – IN 12 WORDS OR LESS
David Warner – 2021 IPL form not indicative of his ability, still an elite match-winner
Aaron Finch – No IPL contract in 2021 clear evidence of his current standing
Steve Smith – Useful anchor, but Australia have two openers to play that role
Mitchell Marsh – Australia’s best T20I batter in 2021, a title that doesn’t inspire confidence
Glenn Maxwell – Only true ‘world class’ player in the side, opposition spinners beware
Marcus Stoinis – Excellent pace hitter, struggles against spin, cutters could be useful
Josh Inglis – Dominated T20 league circuit, can he translate that form at highest level?
Matthew Wade – Excellent opening option, likely to be misused in middle-order role
Adam Zampa – Only wicket-taking spin option in the squad
Mitchell Starc – Gun death bowler, bowls serious pace, gives batting depth
Pat Cummins – Has express pace but not converted Test form into T20’s yet
Josh Hazlewood – Excellent powerplay record in recent years, S/r of 15 in 2021!
Kane Richardson – Can bowl in all phases, but an economy of 9.1 in 2021 is concerning
Ashton Agar – Economical left-armer, shouldn’t bat higher than eight
Mitchell Swepson – Understudy to Zampa, nothing to sing home about
LIKELY STARTING XI
Despite their recent troubles with form and injury, the left-right pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch will continue to open the batting in this World Cup for Australia. Number three feels like the contentious position in the squad with plenty of options including Matthew Wade, Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh. Although Smith is the senior statesman, his ceiling is limited in T20 cricket, and Mitchell Marsh’s excellent performances in Bangladesh and the Caribbean earlier this year could have earned him the spot.
As he has done with RCB, Glenn Maxwell’s ideal position is at number four – allowing him to dominate the spinners – and the reports suggest Matthew Wade has been identified as the number five for the squad, although Josh Inglis provides more upside in this position with his T20 strike rate of over 150.
Marcus Stoinis will be the as the finisher at six, Ashton Agar has batted at seven for the majority of Australia’s T20I matches in 2021 and will be followed by the bowling quartet of Starc, Cummins, Zampa and Hazlewood that pick themselves.
Burning Question – Can they sort out the batting?
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With Mitchell Starc (death overs), Pat Cummins (middle-overs enforcer) and Josh Hazlewood (powerplay), Australia possess one of the strongest bowling lineups in the tournament with bowlers who excel in all three different phases of the game. Although the conditions in the UAE won’t necessarily suit the fast-bowlers, pacers who bowl express speeds like Nortje and Ferguson have been successful in the IPL. In the spin department, Australia have an attacking option in Adam Zampa, a good defensive bowler in Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell, who they can use for matchups against left-handers.
The issue for this team is with regards to their batting, which has been poor compared to the top nations around the world for several years. Most of their players (Finch, Warner, Smith, Stoinis, Wade) are all excellent options at the top of the order but have struggled in the middle overs because of their inability to play spin effectively.
Glenn Maxwell has been the only consistent middle-order batter that Australia have had recently, but the all-rounder has often been left with too much to do, and there is an evident lack of clarity and continuity in the team – and batting lineup in particular – over the years.
There is no obvious solution to their batting travails in this World Cup, but utilising more aggressive options such as Mitchell Marsh (at number three), Glenn Maxwell and Josh Inglis might give Australia a better chance to succeed on the turning UAE tracks and possibly get out of the Super 12 stage and reach the final four.
[Image Credit: David Warner]