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Australia's born-too-early T20 XII

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Roar Guru
27th March, 2020
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Twenty20 cricket wasn’t always the wildly popular international format it is today.

Starting in England in 2003 and beginning internationally for women in 2004 before the Australian men played New Zealand in February of 2005, it took until the 2010s for T20 cricket to really start becoming a staple in the lives of cricket fans and players alike.

The Indian Premier League had its teething problems after unofficial tournaments, but once it hit its straps the IPL began to inspire other countries to create their own leagues, and the international game has since been taken more seriously.

Having come a long way from the nicknames on the back and old-school kits, as worn in the early matches between Australia and New Zealand, T20s have allowed for livelihoods to be secured and pathways to representing countries in other formats.

Many talented players were able to play limited-overs cricket but missed the boat on T20 purely due to when they were born, with the end of their careers coinciding with the rise in popularity of the format.

Below is an XI of talented cricketers who played domestically after men’s T20 cricket commenced in 2005 on the international stage but whose careers, opportunities and legacies may have changed drastically if they had been around in the T20 era.

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1. Ryan Campbell (wicketkeeper)

T20Is: three matches, 36 runs at 12 (strike rate: 76.59)
List A: 105 matches, 2286 runs at 23.56, one century, ten half-centuries

A wicketkeeper who proved to be a handy batsman full of attacking flair, Campbell played two ODIs for Australia in 2002 and three T20Is for Hong Kong in 2016.

With his break coming due to the emergence of Adam Gilchrist on the international scene, Campbell’s domestic career was built on being one of the cleanest hitters of the cricket ball with an ability to get his team off to a good start.

Campbell was a breath of fresh air with an attitude many would’ve loved to approach the game of cricket with – attack from the outset and back yourself in. It proved to be effective, as he had a long career with the Warriors until Luke Ronchi came along in the mid-2000s.

His random return to professional cricket came a decade after he departed the Warriors, and Campbell showed that his ability to strike the ball cleanly wasn’t lost at 44 years of age. In a different era he may have fit right in with the current talented glovemen in Australia.

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2. Greg Blewett

ODIs: 32 matches, 551 runs at 20.40 (strike rate: 61.97), two half-centuries
T20s: six matches, 57 runs at 11.40 (strike rate: 90.47)

It’s unfair to list Blewett’s international record and very limited T20 experience, as he was one of the most naturally gifted cricketers going around in the 1990s. Elegant and calm during the peak of his career, Blewett was seen as a top player on the domestic scene without being able to play consistent cricket for his country.

The South Australian was never the type of player to bludgeon an attack, and perhaps he is best known for a defensive beginning and crafting an innings with his unmatched patience and temperament, but Blewett had an innate ability to ‘flick a switch’ and become more attacking on a dime.

As a decent medium pace bowler and an outstanding fieldsman, as well as a cricket brain rivalling the greatest of the modern era, Blewett’s character and all-round ability would’ve made him a dangerous player in T20 cricket.

3. Stuart Law

ODIs: 54 matches, 1237 runs at 26.89 (strike rate: 75.28), one century, seven half-centuries
T20s: 51 matches, 1197 runs at 26.60 (strike rate: 134.79), one century, seven half-centuries

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One of the most well-known victims of an era during which quality batsmen were not in shortage, Stuart Law is one of just three batsmen in Australian one-day domestic history to score 2000-plus runs at a strike rate of 90-plus.

A career that was appreciated far more in the United Kingdom than in Australia, Law’s prolific record was adaptable among the different formats he participated in, although his typically slow start to innings would have made him a better top-order player in the modern age of T20 cricket.

In fact the Brisbane Heat’s tendency to try and blast the opposition would have meant some stability and intelligence in the top order from this Queensland icon would’ve been valuable in recent years.

4. Darren Lehmann

ODIs: 117 matches, 3078 runs at 38.96 (strike rate: 81.34), 52 wickets at 27.78 (economny: 4.83)
T20s: 17 matches, 381 runs at 29.30 (strike rate: 117.95), 11 wickets at 23.27 (econonmy: 6.73)

Known to a younger generation as a former Australian coach and currently plastered on the screens with the Brisbane Heat, many forget that Lehmann was a carefree, exciting cricketer to watch with an excellent eye.

Domestically Lehmann’s record was astonishing in both first-class and one-day formats, and he was able to translate his game into a point of difference at international level. Lehmann was good on both sides of the wicket although not afraid to try and take the bowler on over midwicket, with his stocky frame and strong front foot planted outside off stump to do so.

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There is something to say about the laissez-faire types of cricketers, particularly in the shortest form of the game, in which a clear mind is a batsman’s best friend. His handy left-arm spinners would’ve gone down a treat as well, as seen in his limited exposure to T20 cricket.

Darren Lehmann

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

5. Ian Harvey

ODIs: 73 matches, 715 runs at 17.87 (strike rate: 88.16), 85 wickets at 30.31 (economy: 4.71)
T20s: 54 matches, 1470 runs at 31.27 (strike rate: 156.21), 52 wickets at 23.73 (economy: 7.67)

A personal favourite, it wouldn’t be a proper limited-overs team without ‘The Freak’. One of the most talented cricketers in the modern century, Harvey was a star all-round talent for Victoria who ended up being a decent handyman-style cricketer over the seven-year period he was in and out of the Australian set-up.

Harvey was beloved in county cricket and never quite got the same respect in Australia, being one of the more underrated players going around. While he played 54 T20 matches in his career, the format came to prominence later in his career and his building of an impressive record came largely in his mid-30s.

Harvey would have been a star in the Big Bash League and fast-tracked to the Australian squad, which may have seen his overall international career pan out very differently. Perhaps the player most unlucky to have been born 10 to 15 years too early.

6. Michael Bevan

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ODIs: 232 matches, 6912 runs at 53.58 (strike rate: 74.16), six centuries, 46 half-centuries

The original finisher, Bevan was universally known as one of the best limited-overs batsmen in world cricket, with his incredible ODI record somehow paling in comparison to his average of 62.05 in 195 domestic one-day matches.

Bevan had the innate ability to find gaps in the field and manipulate fielders in order to turn the strike with metronomic regularity that always put the Australian team in winnable situations. Unfortunately injuries took over Bevan’s career later on, which limited his ability to play in the shortest format of the game to any official extent.

Bevan’s last two recorded matches were unofficial games for Chennai, playing with Ian Harvey, where he scored 56 and 22*. A perfect player to come in four down, whether it be to lift the run rate late in the innings or provide stability after the powerplay, Bevan was also known to chip in with more than handy spinners that could be used to slow the game down.

7. Dan Marsh (captain)

List A: 129 matches, 3119 runs at 33.53, 61 wickets at 49.96 (economy: 4.81)
T20s: 13 matches, 182 runs at 16.54 (strike rate: 113.04), nine wickets at 26.33 (economy: 8.21)

The only player in this XI not to have played international cricket, Marsh was a typical old-school cricketer who was more of a hardworking leader than anything else.

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Adaptable and strong-willed like his father, Marsh led Tasmania to its first first-class title, and his leadership was largely heralded for its equal parts enforcing as it was creating a cohesive environment.

Marsh was an effective limited-overs player in any situation, and his left-arm off spin did enough to suggest he’d bowl in every T20 game he played in during the modern era, whether it be to get through an over quickly or to bowl his entire allotment.

Perhaps not the cricketer most would associate with an XI of unlucky cricketers, Marsh mightn’t have ever represented Australia, but he certainly would’ve been a well-respected leader in the current environment.

8. Andy Bichel

ODIs: 67 matches, 78 wickets at 31.57 (economy: 4.53), best bowling: 7-20
T20s: 29 matches, 33 wickets at 24.90 (economy: 7.96), best bowling: 4-23

An entirely beloved character in modern Australian cricket history, Bichel never quite established himself in the international set-up, although he had enough highlights to make a good name for himself despite likely being the 12th man of any Australian limited-overs XI.

Bichel was a genuinely good all-rounder in domestic cricket, often finding himself to be in the thick of the action in limited-overs cricket due to his lionhearted work ethic.

A handy hitter down the order and a bowler who could hit a good spot regularly. Bichel would be the reliable role player that every T20 team needs, although excelling in the format to be a top star would potentially be a bridge too far.

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9. Stuart Clark

ODIs: 39 matches, 53 wickets at 27.86 (economy: 4.84), best bowling: 4-54
T20Is: nine matches, 13 wickets at 18.23 (economy: 6.58), best bowling: 4-20

Clark could’ve gone down as one of the great Australian bowlers if not for injury always hanging around him, limiting his international career to just 72 matches overall.

At 197 centimetres and with the comparative control and smarts of the legendary Glenn McGrath, Clark had a small taste of T20 cricket prior to his retirement and proved to be an absolute hit for New South Wales and Australia.

Unfortunately this all came in his mid-30s and close to the end of his career, having spent most of it getting his body right for as much Test cricket as he could handle.

A perennially underrated bowler, Clark would’ve been too smart for a lot of modern-day batsmen and would’ve been particularly dangerous in the middle overs of an innings when the opposition looks to get the run rate going.

10. Nathan Bracken

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ODIs: 116 matches, 174 wickets at 24.36 (economy: 4.41), best bowling: 5-47
T20Is: 19 matches 19 wickets at 23.05 (economy: 6.93), best bowling: 3-11

Injury ruined any chances we could have seen of Bracken becoming a dominant force in T20, an inevitability given his outstanding limited-overs performance for Australia.

No-one quite had the same grasp of when to change speed and length as Bracken, particularly in an era that had begun to lean towards pure, unadulterated pace to rip through the opposition.

While Bracken had already become established in the international era, it’s likely that should his body not have failed him, we would’ve seen him become a star in the Big Bash League, which is typically dominated by international bowlers.

As T20 hit its peak, Bracken had retired and left fans of his thinking about what could have been.

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11. Michael Kasprowicz

ODIs: 43 matches, 67 wickets at 24.98 (economy: 4.51), best bowling: 5-45
T20s: 13 matches, 11 wickets at 29.09 (economy: 7.61), best bowling: 4-29

Another player who could’ve played much more international cricket in a different era, Kasprowicz has a legendary domestic record that made him one of the most feared fast bowlers in both the United Kingdom and Australia.

A shorter run-up that was powerful on delivery stride with his tendency to angle the ball into right-handed batsmen and away from left-handers while adapting to varying conditions, Kasprowicz was an intelligent bowler who used his pace to great effect rather than thoughtlessly hurtling the ball at the opposition.

While Kasprowicz was another player whose career ended up with injury affecting performance, the Queenslander character and skill was perfect for the shortest form of the international game.

In much the same way Shaun Tait’s career was extended thanks to T20 cricket, Kasprowicz could have had the same impact on the game had he been around for the opportunities that arose.

12th man: Stuart MacGill

List A: 107 matches, 193 wickets at 22.52 (economy: 4.98), best bowling: 5-40
T20s: 13 matches, 13 wickets at 23.84 (economy: 7.32), best bowling: 3-42

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Depending on the pitch and the necessity to play a full-time spinner alongside the part-timers previously listed, MacGill was the well-known understudy to one of the all-time greats throughout his entire career.

An impressive leg spinner in his own right with a stunning record in both first-class and List A cricket, MacGill’s natural ability to turn the ball wreaked havoc on opposition players that simply hadn’t faced top-quality spin bowling.

If MacGill was born some ten years later, he would’ve been the natural successor to Shane Warne and had an international career that panned out very differently.

The type of cricketer he was, however, MacGill wouldn’t have had it any other way, although more success was on the cards in the most limited format of the game.

We caught a glimpse of the leg spinner for the Sydney Sixers in the first season of the BBL, when he sailed off into the sunset at 40 years of age with a championship next to his name and a successful tournament under his belt.

Honourable mentions

Shane Harwood, Michael Di Venuto, Nathan Adcock, Dom Thornely, Jimmy Maher, Brad Williams, Jon Moss and Brett Dorey.