How will Australia fare in World T20?
Australia national cricket team's players look on as England players celebrate. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS
A few days ago it looked like a joke: Australia being ranked no. 10 in Twenty20 internationals after Bangladesh and Ireland.
Thanks to their victory over Pakistan in the final T20 match in Dubai on 10 September, they have crawled back to the ninth rank, ahead of Ireland but still behind Bangladesh!
What has gone wrong with Australian cricket to be ranked beneath minnows? From heroes to zeroes?
Even if T20 is a lottery form of cricket still this fall from grace is beyond comprehension.
In the last ICC World T20, Australia had made it to the final losing to England by seven wickets at Barbados in May 2010. So from number two in the world to number nine within two years is a huge slide.
Who are to blame, the selectors, the players, the new captain George Bailey? Have we become too meek and mild? Has the infrequency of sledging turned us from ferocious winners into gentlemanly losers?
Past is past. Let’s see whether the once mighty Aussies regain their air of invincibility by winning the ICC World T20 which commenced in Sri Lanka yesterday.
Who will win World T20 2012 is difficult to predict as anything can happen in this form of cricket where sixes are many but maidens few.
Today [19 September] Australia meets Ireland, the giant killers, and on Saturday the fourth seeded West Indies. One win and the Aussies can make it to the Super-8 stage. Potentially, Australia can beat Ireland. But as the Irishmen have nothing to lose, they will go full steam ahead as if there was no Super-8.
The Irish all-rounder Kevin O’Brien wrote his name into Irish cricketing lore with a magical innings against England during the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore last March. Entering the fray with his team in a hopeless position chasing an impossible win target of 327, he smashed a 50-ball century – the fastest in World Cup history – to set up an incredible three-wicket victory.
So beware of O, O, O, O’Brien, Aussies!
And the Windies have an efficient off-spinner in Sunil Narine. Of late Aussie bats have shown weakness to off-spinners like Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal.
Not to forget, Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard can destroy any attack with their hurricane hitting and towering sixes. Also in Darren Sammy they have an astute captain.
Aussie squad: George Bailey (capt), Shane Watson (vice-capt), Daniel Christian, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Brad Hogg, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Clint McKay, Glen Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner and Cameron White.
Let’s have a look at Australia’s strengths and weaknesses. Despite having experienced players like Mike Hussey and Shane Watson, why go for a new face George Bailey to lead the team? And Bailey is not even a youngster, being 30.
Australia’s strengths: In Warner, Wade and Watson, they have three strong openers who can hit and run. Mike Hussey can keep one end steady as the others Christian and White thrash the opposing attack.
I see merit in fast-medium bowler Clint McKay and all-rounder Glen Maxwell.
Australia’s weaknesses: They needed someone like Steven Smith to hit in over numbers 18 to 20. The bowling looks weak. Oh for Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle to keep the batsmen in check! Even if they may not be fully feet, they have to bowl only four overs each. I saw Pat Cummins bowl the all important over after the second T20 match was tied and he was pathetic bowling short balls and toffees to Pakistan bats.
And imagine recalling Brad Hogg, aged over 41!
Australia will reach the Super-8 stage but then on it could be anyone’s Cup. My prediction? South Africa, England or the West Indies.
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.
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