With the 6th T20 Cricket World Cup just 10 days away, we are going to take a look at each of the squads, one by one, and analyze their chances, strengths and weaknesses.
We will begin with the World No. 1 Test and ODI team, the World ODI Champions, Australia.
Surprisingly, the best cricketing nation in the history of cricket has never won the T20 World Cup. Not yet, at least. They were briefly dethroned as World Cup holders from 2011 to 2015, but won the ODI World Cup back at home last year, and are again on top of the Test rankings. They have come full circle but are yet to find their feet in the shortest format. They find themselves this time in the hosts’ group, joining India, New Zealand, Pakistan and one qualifier (likely, Bangladesh). This is no easy group, and they will have to finish as one of the two top teams to make it to the semis.
Australia’s best performance so far has been their run to the finals in the 2010 T20 Championship – where they lost to great rivals England in the final. Michael Hussey had rescued them miraculously in the semis against defending champions Pakistan after he smashed Saeed Ajmal for 23 runs in the final over to get over the line and face England – who looked on song under Paul Collingwood. In the 2014 ICC World T20, Australia couldn’t even make it past the group stages, losing to India, West Indies and Pakistan, and only winning a solitary game against Bangladesh.
Irrespective of the kind of form Australia is in other formats, they have never quite taken T20 cricket too seriously. Which is why their league is also called ‘Big Bash’ – it’s little more than a party for them. This is, both, good and bad. Good, because their cricketers are blooded with a purist mentality and with Test cricket as the ultimate goal. Bad, because the world is slowly going mobile, and every sport is getting shorter, quicker and more colorful. They have done well in the Indian T20 leagues, but as a national team, they have never really stepped up to the plate – even though they won the first ever T20 international back in 2005. A classic example is the way they fielded a third string team against India at home in the T20 series recently under Aaron Finch – who was unfairly dethroned as captain (even though he is the top rated batsman) after the team was whitewashed by the Indians. They immediately bounced back to win the Test Series against New Zealand.
Steve Smith, who is now captain in all formats, will lead the side for the first time in a full tournament in this format. Perhaps they need one leader if they have to do well in T20 cricket. He has a few seniors like Warner, Finch, Watson (back in form), Faulkner and Maxwell to fall back on.
But there will be no Mitchell Starc – who is still recovering from his surgery. Instead, their bowling will be lead by Josh Hazlewood. He will have to blood a relatively inexperienced group of youngsters – Andrew Tye, Ashton Agar (back for the first time after the 2013 Ashes), leg spinner Adam Zampa, Nathan Coulter-Nile and John Hastings (who looks like the senior-most and best out of the lot).
Mitchell Marsh, Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson will be the all-rounders – the most solid and aggressive group in the World Cup out of all the teams. All of them have different roles and are match winners in their own right. The stable hand of Smith and Usman Khwaja will guide the middle order, while Warner (always in form) and Finch will lead the batting at the top. It’s a wonder if they don’t go through to the semis with this team – Starc or no Starc.
Even if they play their very best, we all know how Australians often wilt in sub continental conditions – especially in India, where they find winning and dominating far tougher. Teams like Pakistan and India could have the upper hand, even if they find themselves in the same boat as New Zealand. Still, I predict a semifinal spot for the Aussies – who will have to give their best to win the one last trophy missing from their overcrowded cabinet.