World Cup T-20: Australia’s Final Frontier

Australia enter the World T20 championship as the 6th ranked side. That said, numbers don’t reflect the facts starkly. The recent form, irrespective of the format, has been, nothing short of sensational. Be it tearing apart England or balling over the Saffers in the 3-match Test series.

The Kangaroos would like to carry this confidence going into the T20 extravaganza in Bangladesh where they lock horns with the likes of India, West Indies, Pakistan and a qualifier team in the group stage. If their T20 form is anything to go by (having whitewashed England by 3-0 back home), Australians surely look to threaten West Indians’ crown.

The Kangaroos are replete with match-winners in both departments of the game. Each member of this 15-member squad, except for the James Muirhead, makes a solid case to be picked in the playing XI. George Bailey, thence, will have serious headaches while picking the playing XI – a luxurious problem that every skipper would love to be loaded down with.

Australia boast of a destructive batting order. It isn’t necessarily top heavy though. Why I say so? Well, power, agility, skill, experience and expertise are immensely, yet evenly distributed throughout the batting lineup.

Aaron Finch and David Warner will open the batting. With a combined T20 international strike rate of 154.45, the duo will be a huge point of vexation in the adversary camps. Shane Watson lends tremendous balance to the squad. His 6-season long experience in the Indian Premier League will be very handy in the low and slow pitches of Bangladesh.

Cameron White too is a seasoned campaigner. White will be raring to go after finally breaking into the first-string T20 squad. He would take heart from his showing, as an opener, in the recently concluded three-match T20 international series against the Englishmen, having notched up scores of 75, 58 and 41.

He might not open the innings here, though. In Glenn Maxwell and George Bailey, Australia has exceptional clean-strikers to finish games. Maxwell is a bit swashbuckling, letting go the opportunities after starting with promise.He can take a leaf out of his captain, George Bailey’s books. Bailey, in contrast to Maxwell, has been a dependable bat, down the order. His impeccable consistency (in the ODIs – having amassed 1098 runs at 64.58; the strike rate being 100.00) has altogether silenced his critics who questioned even his place in the Aussie lineup.

The veteran Brad Hodge, 39, at last, seems to have won the selectors faith, despite accumulating more than 32000 runs in all formats of domestic cricket. He would be desperate to vent his frustration by playing a significant role in the lower middle order.There will be a toss-up for the 5th spot between Glenn Maxwell and Brad Hodge. Both are brute stroke-makers and offer all-round options. Roughly, both are equally effective. It will be a tough decision for the team management to leave out the extremely experienced Brad Hodge – something they will have to ponder over. Here is where George Bailey will be confounded whether to pick Maxwell or Hodge. In the couple of T20 games, he featured in, versus England, Hodge couldn’t impress with the bat in hand – which could well work against his favour.

Brad Haddin, 36, is a no-brainer, being the lone wicket-keeper in the 15-member squad. Realistically speaking, Brad Haddin, with the T20I strike rate standing at a paltry 113.88, must consider himself very lucky to find a place in the side. Matthew Wade’s poor run of form might have helped his cause. Having said that, his experience in sub-continental conditions is worth its weight in gold.

Australia have historically relied heavily on their pace attack. This time around, yet again, it will be no different. The revitalized Mitchell Johnson makes his way back into the limited-overs fold as the spearhead of the attack. Johnson has been terrorizing the batsman, of late, with his sheer pace. The flat surfaces in Bangladesh shouldn’t nullify him altogether. Not too long ago, Indian batters subjugated before him in an ODI series played on flat, nothing decks! Johnson is provided with an able partner in Mitchell Starc. Starc was injured throughout in Sydney Sixers’ BBL campaign. However, he came good in the sole game he featured in – picking up 2 wickets at an economy rate of 6 an over. His prowess at bowling yorkers will come good for the Aussies, especially in the slog overs when the batsmen are prepared to throw their bats at everything.

James Faulkner will be a force to reckon with. On his day, there’s no stopping him, be it with the bat or ball. Against India and England, he inspired his side to victories out of the blue, on more than one occasion. Talking about balancing youth with experience, here’s Brad Hogg for you.  The 43-year old is set to be the oldest player to feature in a T20I. This wily, old fox will surely have some liking in the Bangladeshi wickets; using the subtle variations to his advantage.

Australia sport a reliable bench strength in Nathan Coulter-Nile, Daniel Christian, and the young, 20-year old spinner, James Muirhead. Aussie team management might be tempted to play two genuine spinners in Hogg and Muirhead, but it seems unlikely to happen in the first game itself. George Bailey will grant his troops, the license to aggressively express themselves – as they have been for the past six months, and successfully so. The flair in the side is perfectly suited to the T20 scenario.

Australians will be desperate to earn their first T20 title. For that to happen, they will have to pull up their socks’ and alter their abysmal record in knockout games of World T20 – having been knocked over by India, England and West Indies on different occasions.

Sportz Cosmos XI : Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey(c), James Faulkner, Brad Haddin(wk), Mitchell Johnson, Brad Hogg, Mitchell Starc,

-Tej Manohar. V [Tej Manohar is a Cricket Analyst with Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here]

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